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3 Columbia University officials are removed over texts that included ‘antisemitic tropes’

Students in the Columbia University campus on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Steps of the Low Memorial Library in the background. New York^ NY^ USA - July 8^ 2022

Columbia University said on Monday that it has removed three administrators from their positions and will keep them on leave indefinitely after finding text messages that were exchanged during a campus discussion about Jewish life “touched on ancient antisemitic tropes.” The administrators have been permanently removed from their positions at the university’s undergraduate Columbia College. The college’s dean, who previously apologized for his part in the text exchanges, will remain in that role.

University President Minouche Shafik wrote in a letter to the community that the messages “revealed behavior and sentiments that were not only unprofessional, but also, disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes …Whether intended as such or not, these sentiments are unacceptable and deeply upsetting, conveying a lack of seriousness about the concerns and the experiences of members of our Jewish community that is antithetical to our University’s values and the standards we must uphold in our community.”  Provost Angela Olinto wrote that the administrators’ conduct was “wrong and contrary to the mission and values of our institution. It revealed, at best, an ignorance of the history of antisemitism.”   Olinto also said that Josef Sorett, the dean of Columbia College, has taken full responsibility for his actions, wrote an apology to the community and will be working with the campus to rebuild trust.

The administrators were first put on leave last month after a conservative news outlet published images of what it said were text messages they exchanged while attending the May 31 panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present and Future,”and were first revealed by conservative outlet The Washington Free Beacon . The House Committee on Education and the Workforce also published some of the messages last week.

Four administrators engaged in the text messages, including Cristen Kromm, former dean of undergraduate student life; Matthew Patashnick, former associate dean for student and family support; and Susan Chang-Kim, former vice dean and chief administrative officer. Dean of Columbia College, Josef Sorett, participated in the group but was not removed from his position. Said Sorett: “While not intended as such, some of the text messages exchanged may call to mind antisemitic tropes. Any language that demeans members of our community, or divides us from one another, is simply unacceptable. I am deeply sorry that this happened in a community that I lead and, that I was part of any of the exchanges, and I pledge to spearhead the change we need to ensure this never happens again.”

Editorial credit: Tada Images / Shutterstock.com

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