Columbia Dems apologize for condemning disruptive protests

Toni Airaksinen
New York Campus Correspondent

  • Late last month, the Columbia Democrats blasted protesters who had disrupted speakers invited by the College Republicans.
  • On November 21, the CU Dems retracted their initial op-ed, apologizing for its “reckless inconsideration of identity-based groups" and vowing to join in future anti-conservative protests.
  • The Columbia University Democrats have retracted a school newspaper op-ed opposing disruptive student protests, saying they didn’t realize how much “labor” is needed to shut down free speech.

    On October 29, after hundreds of students shouted down a lecture given by conservative speaker Tommy Robinson, the CU Dems published an op-ed in The Columbia Spectator warning other students of how protests can backfire.

    "We admire, support, and seek to honor the work of those committed to combatting injustice. To the people we failed and disappointed: We are sorry."   

    [RELATED: Columbia newspaper refuses to publish Republican op-ed]

    “When students shout down extremists, these bigots are empowered rather than erased; the bigots receive media coverage, and with it, legitimacy that they should never have,” they wrote, adding that it is important to “protect communities of students.”

    Just a few weeks after the op-ed was published, hundreds of students turned out to protest Mike Cernovich, who was invited to speak upon the request of the Columbia University College Republicans as part of their Free Speech Month series.

    In the wake of protests against Cernovich and Robinson, on November 21, the CU Dems decided to retract their initial op-ed, apologizing for their criticism of student protesters and atoning for how they may have supported “violence” by discouraging protests.

    [RELATED: Columbia students: Shouting down conservatives is 'free speech']

    “We take full responsibility for the ways in which we were complicit in supporting the violence caused by the visiting speakers, violence which is also perpetuated by American society,” they wrote.

    They also apologized for displaying a “reckless inconsideration of identity-based groups and actively undermined the labor put forth" by student protesters.

    “We admire, support, and seek to honor the work of those committed to combatting injustice. To the people we failed and disappointed: We are sorry,” they concluded.

    While the group had initially vowed to organize “counter-programming” for every speaker invited by the Columbia University College Republicans, the CU Dems recanted that pledge too, and vowed to “show up and support their work by attending protests” in the future.

    On November 28, Dennis Prager will speak on campus about his upcoming film, No Safe Spaces. It is yet unclear whether students are planning to protest.

    Campus Reform reached out to the Columbia University Democrats for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen


    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    New York Campus Correspondent
    Toni Airaksinen is a New York Campus Correspondent, where she reports on free speech issues and social justice research. She is a senior at Barnard College, majoring in Urban Studies and Environmental Science. She is also a columnist for PJ Media, and formerly held a post with USA TODAY College, The Columbia Spectator, and Quillette.
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