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Columbia University to open research center in Tel Aviv amid divisions among faculty

Columbia University to open research center in Tel Aviv amid divisions among faculty


Jackie Hajdenberg
April 5, 2023
JTA — Columbia University has announced that it will launch a “Global Center” in Tel Aviv amid dueling letters from faculty supporting and opposing the decision.
The university’s Global Centers act as hubs for local scholars and researchers to work with the New York City school’s faculty, students and alumni to study and address a range of local and global issues. The center in Tel Aviv will join 10 others across the globe.
The Tel Aviv Global Center will enable the university “to connect with individuals and institutions, as well as with the alumni community in Israel, drawing them closer to the ongoing life of the University,” Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said in a statement Monday. He added that the center will focus on climate change, technology, entrepreneurship, arts, the humanities, biology, health and medicine.
Columbia already has ties to Tel Aviv through Tel Aviv University, with which it began a dual degree program in 2019, despite also facing faculty and student objections.
For decades, Columbia has been the site of heated debate among both faculty and students over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in the months leading up to the announcement, a group of Columbia faculty urged the school to halt plans for a center in Tel Aviv. In February, law professor Katherine Franke began circulating an open letter against the center, which as of Tuesday morning had received 95 faculty signatures, according to the Columbia Daily Spectator, a student publication.
The letter references accusations of Israeli human rights violations, as well as the policies of Israel’s governing coalition, which includes far-right parties and which has put forward a proposal for a judicial overhaul that has led to massive street protests and upheaval in the country.
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