Antisemitism, Columbia University, Israel-Gaza War, Hamas

Columbia University: Deans who sent antisemitic texts have been "permanently removed" but also placed "on leave"  

Columbia university deans "on leave" after sending antisemitic text messages during a panel on Jewish life at the university 

Pro-Palestinian supporters set up a protest encampment on the campus of Columbia University in New York as seen on April 22, 2024 (Photo: Shutterstock / Lev Radin)

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik announced on Monday that three administrators have been removed from their positions following an investigation into antisemitic text messages exchanged during a May panel on Jewish life at the university. However, the announcement's wording has left some students and observers confused about the full extent of the disciplinary action.

The administrators – Susan Chang-Kim, vice dean and chief administrative officer; Cristen Kromm, dean of undergraduate student life; and Matthew Patashnick, associate dean for student and family support – were said to be "permanently removed" from their posts but also remain "on leave," according to the statement from Shafik and Provost Angela Olinto.

The controversial text messages, which occurred during a May 31 panel titled "Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present and Future," appeared to trivialize concerns about rising antisemitism on campus. The messages included comments about privilege and the influence of money, which Shafik acknowledged "touched on ancient antisemitic tropes."

A fourth administrator, Dean of Columbia College Josef Sorett, who participated in the exchange to a lesser extent, will not face disciplinary action after apologizing and committing to work on healing the community.

The university plans to implement antisemitism and anti-discrimination training for faculty, staff, and students starting in the fall.

Jewish student leaders expressed mixed reactions to the announcement. Some, like Eliana Goldin, co-chair of the pro-Israel club Aryeh, criticized the statement's ambiguity, suggesting it was an attempt to avoid taking full responsibility.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has opened an investigation into the incident, stated through a spokesperson that the removals are "not enough" and that Columbia is "far from off the hook."

Questions remain about the long-term employment status of the removed administrators and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of Columbia's response to concerns about antisemitism on campus.

* The Jewish Insider contributed to this article.

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