Deans at top US university removed over ‘anti-Semitic’ texts

Posted by: John Phoenix

Private message exchanges “touched on” tropes that disparage Jews, Columbia University has said

Deans at top US university removed over ‘anti-Semitic’ texts

©  Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Three top members of the administration at Columbia University in New York have lost their jobs over “anti-Semitic” statements made in text messages. The institution has attracted controversy in recent months over protests that have allegedly featured both anti-Semitic and anti-Palestinian discrimination.

Columbia issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the staff members in question “have been permanently removed from their positions” for engaging in “very troubling text message exchanges” that “disturbingly touched on ancient anti-Semitic tropes.” 

The exchange took place during a panel discussion about Jewish life on campus at an alumni event in May. Susan Chang-Kim, then vice dean and chief administrative officer, exchanged text messages with colleagues during the event. A person sitting behind her took photographs of the screen of her phone while she was tapping.  

The photos of the private correspondence were published by conservative website The Washington Free Beacon last month, while the full correspondence was recently released by a congressional committee investigating anti-Semitism at Columbia.

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The messages included vomit emojis in reaction to an op-ed by the campus rabbi, dollar signs, and statements described by the university as “unacceptable and deeply upsetting.” 

The exchanges also included concern, however, that Jewish students who do not support Israel were not being given a space to gather on campus. One message defended pro-Palestine student protesters, noting that they were not demonstrating in support of the Hamas militant group, as some media reports had suggested.

Others involved in the exchange were identified as Cristen Kromm, former dean of undergraduate student life, Matthew Patashnick, former associate dean for student and family support, and Josef Sorett, the dean of Columbia College.

The latter is retaining a position on campus after apologizing and taking full responsibility for the incident, according to the statement.

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Columbia University has attracted controversy since the start of the latest conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas in October. Pro-Palestinian students set up a solidarity encampment on the campus lawn in April, triggering a wave of similar actions around the world. Activists accused the university of supporting Israel while ignoring the plight of the Palestinians.

The administration and some Jewish students claimed that the pro-Palestinian protesters were creating an unsafe and hostile environment. The university cracked down on the encampment by calling in police. More than 1,000 arrests were made and over 100 students were suspended.

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