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  • Reverend James Squire

Need To Say the Quiet Part Out Loud

 


Photo by Kristina Flour

 

 

I really didn’t see this right away, but it quickly became important to speak the quiet part out loud regarding Michael Johnson’s visit to Columbia yesterday. I have written a blog on understanding what is important to know about students before you invite yourself into a protest. What should have been moment for him and the Republicans to work with Columbia, New York City Police, and the Governor to bring support from afar was really a political stunt. It began with Stefanik and the New York politicians beginning in Washington.

 

Their thinking was let’s use these protests to benefit our party. They needed something positive in their failure to govern to show the American people. Johnson didn’t think it was important to meet with those students supporting the Palestinians. They failed to hear both perspectives. His comments were that they support Hamas. Those are few. The majority were concerned about the abhorrent treatment and killing of Palestinian people, most especially those who were women and children. Students value justice for all parties involved.

 

What Johnson and the entourage managed to do in their visit with just Jewish students was to provide significant more division and anger. Johnson preached to them about the difference between right and wrong and called for punishments of the students and the resignation of their President of the University. He talked and was drowned out by boos and various slogans shouted by the students. They had to take his message inside to be given which made him even angrier. He also shouted, “Thanks for your free speech!”

 

The Republicans also wanted federal funding for projects at Columbia to stop. Now the most quiet part that needs to be shouted is that these are private universities are not subject to people on the outside just coming in. They have their governing boards. No one asked permission from the schools or local police force or governor to come in. Never get into a “spitting” contest with a student. You will lose.

 

It didn’t take long for the Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, to call Johnson and the others out and indicate that his visit became a source of increased division. AOC also indicated that the Republicans had botched it.

 

Various Jewish faculty who was involved in the protests and moved easily through the students as well as Jewish students who were for restraint from Israel in their attacks had no problem with any hassle.

 

Most of the faculty “got” what was going on. The Republicans weren’t there to stop a protest. They were there to punish a university whose professors and courses are to them too liberal. Look at what DeSantis did to the colleges and universities in Florida. Johnson failed to see the age-old ethical axiom that “what you do to one, you have to do to all.” Are college presidents across all those institutions where protests are occurring being asked to resign? No, it was a performance. Look what we did!

 

At the hearts of the increased division is that students don’t forget. They saw this as a betrayal. The administration needs to make clear that Johnson and the others were uninvited. Students can be reasonable if they understand what is happening and why. I believe the NYPD, the Governor and what she feels necessary, the administration of the university can work this out.

 

I wrote earlier this week about a former Senior Warden of the Vestry who is now the chief Operations Officer at Columbia. Cas was always a very strong polite leader. I have never been referred to as a shrinking violet so there were differences of opinions on certain issues. We always talked them out but neither of us was trying to win, just understand the good points of the other’s position. I had great respect for him. He had similar respect for me. Our conversations led to solutions. I know all of that is still part of him. I am glad that he will be a key in getting things right for Columbia. Respect is the bottom line.

 

What Johnson, Stefanik, and others have basically said to those at Columbia, “It’s our way or the highway.” For those of us who have worked with students that is like pouring gasoline on a fire. My real concern is that the Republicans self- determined visit to Columbia didn’t know that. They really didn’t know students.

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