WHAT’S GOING ON?
Columbia University Condemns White Undergrad’s Racist Rant, But Students Demand More Answers
Three days after a white sophomore went on a racist tirade against fellow students, the university’s response has left some students wondering whether it will take action at all.
A white student at Columbia University unleashed a racist tirade aimed at a group of mostly black undergraduates late Sunday night—telling them white people are the "best thing that ever happened to the world,” as seen in a now-viral video of the encounter.
The nearly minute-long video showed the college sophomore, identified by the school’s newspaper as Julian von Abele, outside the New York City school’s Butler Library around 4 a.m., swinging his arms while screaming: “Europeans built the modern world.”
“We invented science and industry and you want to tell us to stop because, ‘Oh my God, we’re so bad!’” von Abele, wearing a blazer and white button-down shirt, shouted in the footage filmed by a bystander.
And now, three days after the incident and widespread backlash, the school has yet to take any definitive action—declining to give information beyond a statement acknowledging an investigation into the matter.
“Although we cannot comment on the proceedings, this incident is already under investigation by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, and we want to assure you that it will be investigated thoroughly, beginning with interviews of witnesses,” Columbia University administration said in a statement signed by all three deans on Monday.
It continued: “At Columbia, we stand firmly against white supremacist language and violence. As we said last week, our community will not waver in its support for those of any faith, race, gender, sexual orientation, background or identity.”
The statement also invited students to a “open reflection space” held Monday evening, though many students of color at the Ivy league believed the opportunity for a real conversation fell flat.
“That video really triggered me and I was hoping to speak to someone from the administration about steps that are being taken to ensure the safety of students, even from other students,” one Columbia junior told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “I got no clarity and honestly feel like they are doing nothing to help us.”
During the tirade, von Abele is seen hurling racist remarks at the group, which was returning from an off-campus campus, crossing his path on the way to a dining hall.
The group appeared to be outwardly responding to his rant, calling him a “degenerate” and giving him middle finger while egging him on to “say it one more time.” It is not clear from the video how the encounter between von Abele and the group first began.
“We saved billions of people from starvation, we built modern civilization! White people are the best thing that ever happened to the world!,” von Abele continued, his voice growing hoarse from all the shouting. “We are so amazing. I love myself! I love white people! Fuck yeah, white people. Fuck yeah, white men. We’re white men, we did everything."
He added: "Look, I don’t hate other people, I just love white men.”
The Columbia undergrad, who describes himself on Twitter as an “author, physicist, and 2016 Independent candidate for President,” apparently authored a 218-page book on parallel universes, titled Physics Reforged: The New Theory of Parallel Universes, Hidden Dimensions, and the Fringes of Reality.
“Julian began developing new theories of physics in the eighth grade. A student in high school, he has published a volume detailing a radical new version of quantum mechanics, which suggests the existence of a multiverse,” reads his author biography on Amazon.com, where the 2015 book is on-sale for $14.95.
Von Abele did not immediately respond to the The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
One student witness, Kwolanne Felix, told The Daily Beast that after a few minutes of shouting, the group gave up and believed von Abele was drunk. When the group arrived at their intended destination—the dining hall—they met a group of black women who said they had also been harassed by the same man.
Felix explained that soon after, Von Abele walked in an continued his racist rant before being confronted by other students and a nearly security official.
“The public safety officer lingered and when we asked for help, the officer just said, ‘He is just saying how he feels,’” Felix recalled.
The school’s Black Students' Organization issued a statement following the incident, claiming the sophomore “continued to harass several students” after the videotaped incident and that “Public Safety did nothing to help protect the students.”
“This came after he grabbed a Black woman and asked Black women if they liked to date white men, according to several individuals,” the statement said.
The Columbia University Department of Public Safety declined to provide a statement to The Daily Beast, instead referring to the school’s previous statement.
“[These types] of incidents do not happen in isolation and we demand that Columbia University sees this as an institutional problem that is perpetuated by its administrative, academic, and business practices,” Columbia University Student Organization of Latinxs said on Facebook on Sunday.
But while the administration maintains it is investigating the incident, the ordeal seemingly reveals a pattern of non-action against bigoted misconduct at the Ivy League school.
Just last month, a Jewish professor’s office was vandalized with two spray-painted swastikas and a derogatory word.
Professor Elizabeth Midlarsky, who is Jewish and has published various articles about the Holocaust, told CNN she “almost passed out” when she said her vandalized office. The incident, which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called an “ abhorrent act of anti-Semitism” is now being investigated by NYPD as a hate crime after the university did not take immediate action.
“I was so shaky, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it,” the 77-year-old professor said, explaining that she has received hate mail since at least 2007, mostly connected to her work as a Jewish activist.