Mike Johnson calls on Columbia president to resign during chaotic visit to campus

 April 25, 2024

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) called for the embattled president of Columbia University to resign during a visit to the school's Manhattan campus, which has been swept by unrest over Israel's war with Hamas.

President Minouche Shafik should step aside if she is unable to guarantee the safety of Jewish students, Johnson said at a press conference where he was heckled by students.

“I am here today joining my colleagues and calling on President Shafik to resign if she cannot immediately bring order to this chaos," he said.

Johnson calls for resignation

Lawmakers have flocked to Columbia to voice their concerns about the protests there, but the visit from Johnson was the most high-profile yet by a member of Congress.

“My message to the students inside the encampment is go back to class and stop the nonsense,” Johnson said. “Stop wasting your parents’ money."

Columbia descended into chaos last week when Shafik ordered the arrest of protesters who set up a large encampment that has since returned - inspiring similar protests at elite campuses like New York University, Yale and Harvard.

Speaking over heckling protesters, Johnson, flanked by fellow Republicans, said the demonstrations had crossed the line into unlawful harassment and that a forceful response might be warranted, urging President Biden to get involved.

“If this is not contained quickly and if these threats and intimidation are not stopped, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard," he said.

School isn't budging

Johnson's trip came after he helped shepherd billions in foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine, angering some members of his own party while winning praise from Democrats.

His visit to Columbia sparked a sharp response from New York's Democratic governor Kathy Hochul, who complained he was stirring the pot.

“I think politicizing this and bringing the entourage to put a spotlight on this is only adding to the division,” she said.

The chaos at Columbia is the latest manifestation of a culture war that has swept elite academia, putting powerful but normally obscure bureaucrats in the spotlight.

Harvard president Claudine Gay was forced out months ago over plagiarism and her handling of anti-Semitism at the school.

Shafik is negotiating with protesters over the removal of the protest encampment, as the school vows to support her "through this extraordinarily challenging time."

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