Update on Campus Incidents

January 22, 2024

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

I write to follow up on my earlier message that affirmed Columbia’s commitment to engaging in free expression in a safe and respectful manner.

As some of you may be aware, a deeply troubling incident occurred on the steps of Low Library on Friday. Numerous Columbia and Barnard students who attended a protest later reported being sprayed with a foul-smelling substance that required students to seek medical treatment. After the Department of Public Safety received an initial complaint late Friday night, the University immediately initiated steps to investigate the incident, and has since been actively working with local and federal authorities. The New York City Police Department is taking the lead role in investigating what appear to have been serious crimes, possibly hate crimes.

The University received additional information Sunday night. As a result, the alleged perpetrators identified to the University were immediately banned from campus while the law enforcement investigation proceeds. 

We continue to urge those who have relevant information – including pictures, videos, and clothing – to share that with the Department of Public Safety and NYPD. We are grateful to the members of our community who have done so already. 

We condemn in the strongest possible terms any threats or acts of violence directed toward anyone in our community. The University is committed to taking urgent action with the appropriate authorities in any such cases. The safety of every single member of this community is paramount.

Our student health offices have support resources for members of our community who feel impacted by recent events, including:

  • Morningside and Manhattanville students: Columbia Health supports students’ physical and mental well-being. Columbia Health Counseling and Psychological Services offers individual counseling, support groups, and drop-in hours. Call 212-854-2878 if you are experiencing high levels of distress and need immediate assistance.
  • CUIMC students: Student Health on Haven offers support sessions, individual counseling, and support groups. Call 212-305-3400 if you are experiencing high levels of distress and need immediate assistance.
  • In addition, please reach out to your Dean of Students as an additional resource for support.


Dennis A. Mitchell, DDS, MPH (he/him)
Interim Provost
Professor of Dental Medicine at CUMC