Professor Shai Davidai, an assistant professor at Columbia Business School, was reportedly denied access to the main campus on Friday as his school ID was “deactivated” during the recent protests over the Israeli-Gaza conflict. What was equally concerning is that the university did so for his own protection out of concern that, as an outspoken Jewish faculty member, he could not walk around the campus safely. It was reminiscent of the recent controversy of a man in London threatened with arrest because being “quite openly Jewish” would trigger pro-Palestinian protesters.

Davidai said that the university told him they banned him from campus because they could not ensure his safety. This followed a Columbia rabbi telling Jewish students to leave campus for their own safety.

The most basic obligation of a university is to ensure the safety of its faculty and students from physical assaults. If there is a problem on campus, it is found in those students or faculty who would threaten a Jewish professor if he were to walk on campus.

This is not part of the debate over what language is considered a threat or hateful rhetoric. This is barring a professor because his status alone makes his presence inflammatory or dangerous. I cannot imagine how the solution was barring the potential victim of religious-based bigotry and violence.

We have not heard from Columbia University on the “deactivation.” Unless Professor Davidai is lying, someone cut off his access in the university. The university owes him and the Columbia community an immediate explanation. Indeed, University President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik should have issued a statement yesterday.

There are calls for Shafik to resign. That position is not helped by the silence on the barring of a faculty member. If the accounts are untrue, Shafik needs to say so. If they are true, she needs to explain the basis for this extraordinary action. I cannot imagine the basis for such a deactivation since Shafik has not been accused of any threatening conduct himself.

As major donors like Robert Kraft pull their financial support from Columbia, the school will need to respond more quickly and transparently to such controversies. That can start by reactivating the card of Professor Davidai and supplying whatever security is needed to allow him and others to walk around campus without fear of assault.