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A Timeline of Nemat Shafik’s Tenure as Columbia President

Nemat Shafik was not even halfway through her first semester as president of Columbia University when protests related to the Israel-Hamas war began reverberating through college campuses across the United States.

Dr. Shafik, who is a native of Alexandria, Egypt, and goes by Minouche, is an economist who began her career at the World Bank. Her résumé includes time as the deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund and as the deputy governor of the Bank of England, and she has also served in the British House of Lords, the upper chamber of Parliament.

Like leaders at other American universities, she has had to contend in recent months with dueling protests, reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus and questions of whether pro-Palestinian supporters have been unfairly silenced.

On Friday, the faculty senate is expected to vote on a resolution expressing displeasure with a series of her decisions, including her summoning of the New York Police Department last week to arrest students on campus.

Here is a timeline of her tenure at the university:

Jan. 18, 2023

The university’s board of trustees announces that Dr. Shafik, then the president of the London School of Economics and Political Science, will be the 20th president of Columbia.

July 1, 2023

Soon after Dr. Shafik’s first day as president, July 1, she tells Columbia Magazine that her leadership philosophy centers on leading from behind when possible. “Occasionally, you need to step out in front and point an institution in a different direction,” she says.

She continues: “But most of the time, if you’re working with great people, you can allow your colleagues to flourish and take things where they need to go. I find that this works well at universities, where you’ve got immensely talented individuals all around you.”

Oct. 4, 2023

Dr. Shafik is inaugurated as president, though it is not entirely a celebratory affair, the student newspaper, The Columbia Spectator, reports. In attendance are hundreds of protesters, including postdoctoral workers seeking a new contract and a group objecting to the university’s mismanagement of decades of patient sexual abuse by a former Columbia University Medical Center gynecologist, Robert A. Hadden.

Oct. 9, 2023

Two days after the Hamas-led assault on Israel, Dr. Shafik issues a statement saying that she is “devastated by the horrific attack on Israel,” and that “we must reject forces that seek to pull us apart.”

Oct. 12, 2023

Columbia takes take the extraordinary step of closing its campus to the public as hundreds of protesters gather at the university for competing pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

Oct. 23, 2023

Amid dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations, Columbia calls off its Giving Day, an annual event in which alumni and donors are asked to send money to the university. In 2022, the event raised almost $30 million in 24 hours.

Nov. 1, 2023

After issuing statements on Oct. 18 and 27 to try to calm the campus and denounce instances of bias, Dr. Shafik announces the creation of a task force to combat antisemitism in an attempt to address the “root causes” of campus hate. She also takes some steps to restrict where and when student demonstrations can be held.

She also creates the Doxing Resource Group to help student protesters who face harassment after their identities are revealed online, a tactic that has particularly been targeted at pro-Palestinian students.

Nov. 10, 2023

The school suspends two pro-Palestinian student groups — Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace — which the school accuses of repeatedly violating policies requiring them to get permission and give 10 business days’ notice before holding an event.

Nov. 14, 2023

About 400 students rally on campus for the two suspended groups, and 200 faculty members walk out the next day in protest.

Dec. 5, 2023

The presidents of three top schools — Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania — testify at a congressional hearing that House Republicans convened to address issues of bias against Jewish students. Their lawyerly answers draw strong criticism.

Dr. Shafik does not attend the hearing because of a previous commitment at United Nations climate talks in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

April 17

Since the December congressional hearing, two of the campus leaders who testified, Claudine Gay of Harvard and Elizabeth Magill of Penn, have resigned under pressure.

When Dr. Shafik testifies before the same Republican-led House committee, she tells lawmakers that she is taking serious action to what she and university officials call a wave of antisemitism on campus.

She frequently defends Columbia’s commitment to free speech while saying that administrators “cannot and should not tolerate abuse of this privilege” when it puts others at risk. She also appears much more willing than the leaders of Harvard and Penn were to condemn and potentially discipline students and faculty.

On the same day, dozens of students pitch tents on a lawn in the center of Columbia’s Manhattan campus.

April 18

In short order, Dr. Shafik sends a letter to the N.Y.P.D., saying that the pop-up tent village “and related disruptions pose a clear and present danger” to the university.

“With great regret, we request the NYPD’s help to remove these individuals,” Dr. Shafik writes. More than 100 students at Columbia University and its sister school, Barnard College, are arrested. They were seeking that the university and its nearly $14 billion endowment divest from Israel.

There are no reports of violence or injury.

April 19

Tents are again set up on an adjacent campus lawn by demonstrators. All of the students involved in the first encampment are informed that they are suspended and some are evicted from campus housing.

April 22

Dr. Shafik announces that all classes will be held virtually, and that faculty and staff should work remotely if possible. “We need a reset,” Dr. Shafik writes in a letter to the Columbia community.

Hundreds of faculty members join a walkout and sign open letters criticizing Dr. Shafik for her handling of demonstrations.

April 24

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, visits the campus. He says that Dr. Shafik should resign if she cannot immediately get the situation under control. At the same time, she fights for her job during an hourlong meeting with the university senate.

Columbia’s board of trustees says in a statement that it “strongly supports President Shafik as she steers the university through this extraordinarily challenging time.”

April 26

The university senate is expected to vote on rebuking Dr. Shafik, reacting to her testimony before Congress and the arrests of student protesters.

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