Cornell University Cancels Classes Following Violent Antisemitic Threats and Arrest of Student

Cornell University Cancels Classes Following Violent Antisemitic Threats and Arrest of Student
Students walk through the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York, in April. Bing Guan/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Cornell University has canceled classes on Friday, as it grapples with the fallout from a series of violent antisemitic threats that have left the campus community in shock.

A junior at the prestigious Ivy League institution, 21-year-old Patrick Dai, has been arrested and federally charged in connection to the threats. The threats were posted online over the weekend, and they targeted Jewish students at Cornell. In one message, Dai threatened to “shoot up” the university’s predominantly kosher dining hall, 104 West, and in another, he threatened to “bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot Jewish people,” according to prosecutors.

Dai appeared in a federal court in Syracuse on Wednesday, where he did not enter a plea. His defense attorney, Gabrielle DiBella, declined to comment after the hearing. Dai’s parents have said that he has been struggling with severe depression since 2021.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said during a news conference on Wednesday that she wants to “make an example” of Dai’s case, and she is considering whether he will also face state charges in connection to the threats.

Cornell University student Patrick Dai is accused of making online threats against the school’s Jewish community. Broome County Sheriff’s Office

In addition to the online threats, the university received a “concerning crime alert” on Wednesday, though it turned out to be unsubstantiated. Despite this, Cornell President Martha E. Pollack said in a statement that the alert “adds to the stress we are all feeling.”

Pollack also noted that “we cannot let ourselves be defined by the acts of one person, or even ten,” and she encouraged members of the Cornell community to “cherish and celebrate all the good that so many members of our Cornell community do and live every day.”

Friday has been declared a community day at Cornell, in recognition of the extraordinary stress that the campus has been under in recent weeks. Classes have been canceled, and staff and faculty are excused from work, except for those providing essential services.

The incident at Cornell comes amid escalating tensions on college campuses across the United States, as students and faculty express impassioned stances on the Israel-Hamas war that erupted last month. The war has also resulted in a spike in hate-motivated attacks, with the Anti-Defamation League reporting a nearly 400% increase in antisemitic incidents in the days following the October 7 Hamas raid on Israel.