The Right to Privacy at Columbia

Earlier today, students at Columbia University walked out on a two-hour lecture by Hillary Clinton. I can’t blame them for that, although I admire Hillary’s stamina. But the students walked out for a different reason than I would have:

Thirty students walked out of Hillary Clinton’s class at Columbia University to “shame” the Ivy League school for how they perceive it allowed its students who signed an anti-Israel statement to be publicly named and pictured.

The students joined nearly 300 others who peacefully sat in the lobby of the school’s International Affairs Building Wednesday.
Students were protesting against the school’s lack of action to prevent the doxxing of students, whose faces appeared on trucks that drove near the Morningside Heights campus last week.

Students claimed the photographs used on the truck — alongside the words “Columbia’s Leading Anti-Semites” — were taken from a “private and secure” server for students in the School of International and Public Affairs.
Students are demanding “immediate legal support for affected students” and wants the school to show a “commitment to student safety,” the NYT reported.

Along the same lines, more than 100 Columbia professors have signed a letter that defended Hamas’s “military action” as well as the Joint Statement from Palestine Solidarity Groups at Columbia University, some of whose authors have now been identified and shamed. The faculty letter concludes:

We ask Columbia University’s leadership, our faculty colleagues, Columbia alumni, potential employers of Columbia students, and all who share a commitment to the notion of a just society to join us in condemning, in the strongest of terms, the vicious targeting of our students with doxing, public shaming, surveillance by members of our community, including other students, and reprisals from employers.

So: Immediately after the October 7 massacre, student leaders of a number of Columbia organizations collaborated on a viciously anti-Semitic and pro-genocide Joint Statement. Many observers were outraged by the Joint Statement, including prospective employers who do not want to hire new employees who defend gang rape, murder of infants, and so on. Someone identified some of the students who were behind the Joint Statement and put their names and faces on a vehicle that drove near the Columbia campus, with a legend that said “Columbia’s Leading Anti-Semites.” The students in question now seek anonymity, supported by many faculty members.

When is doxxing a good thing, and when is it reprehensible? That is too big a topic for a single post, but it seems the relevant point here is that a number of Columbia students weighed in on the October 7 massacre in the names of the organizations they run. They intended for their “Joint Statement” to have public impact, and they put whatever prestige their organizations may have behind it. Having launched that public salvo, is it reasonable for the students who collaborated on it to now expect anonymity? If the statement was reprehensible, why shouldn’t prospective employers, as well as other Columbia students, know who was responsible for it? These students weren’t just minding their own business or engaging in ordinary campus give and take. They enlisted their organizations, which they evidently believe have some public credibility, in support of the most evil actions of the 21st century. Why shouldn’t they be held accountable?

Until now, invasions of privacy have run in only one direction. Conservatives have been doxxed, liberals have not been. This seems like a good occasion on which to even the scales.

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