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3 Columbia University deans have been placed on leave over their behavior at the anti-Semitism panel

3 Columbia University deans have been placed on leave over their behavior at the anti-Semitism panel

Columbia University has placed three administrators on leave this week, a university spokesman said Saturday. The moves came a little more than a week after photos surfaced showing school officials sharing offensive text messages during a panel discussion about anti-Semitism on campus.

The session, which focused on Jewish life on campus amid tensions over the Israeli war on Gaza, was held during a Columbia College Meeting On May 31.

The spokesman did not specify which officials were placed on leave, however Washington Free LighthouseThe website that first published the photos stated that the two photos were of Susan Chang Kim, vice dean and administrative director; Christine Crum, Dean of Undergraduate Student Life; and Matthew Patashnik, associate dean for student and family support.

Ms. Chang Kim also exchanged texts during the event with Joseph Surette, dean of Columbia College, according to The Free Beacon. In one text message, Mr. Surette texted “LMAO” for “laughing my ass off,” in response to a sarcastic message Ms. Chang Kim wrote about Brian Cohen, the CEO of Columbia/Barnard Hillel, according to the Free lighthouse.

Mr. Surette is cooperating in the investigation into the text message exchanges, according to a university official. He will be relieved of matters related to the investigation while continuing to serve as dean.

Mr. Surette oversees the curriculum at Columbia College and his central role is “to ensure that students have the best possible experience in and out of the classroom,” according to the university’s website.

In a statement sent to the Columbia College Board of Visitors on Friday afternoon, Mr. Surette told the advisory board that he deeply regretted his role in the text exchange and its impact on the community.

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“I am committed to learning from this situation and to working to confront anti-Semitism, discrimination and hatred in Colombia,” he said.

Attempts to reach other officials on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Because the investigation is still pending, a Columbia University spokesperson said the university would not elaborate on this matter or the initial episode.

The Free Beacon, a conservative news site, said it obtained the photos from someone who sat behind Ms. Chang Kim at the event and took pictures of her phone screen as she messaged other officials.

While the speakers spoke, the deans exchanged messages, as the photos show. “This is hard to listen to but I’m trying to keep an open mind to learn about this point of view,” Ms. Chang Kim texted Mr. Surette at one point. “Yes,” he replied.

In another exchange, Ms. Crum sent a text message to colleagues referencing an opinion article written by Yona Hein, the Columbia campus rabbi, in October 2023, titled “Sound the alarm” The images appear, followed by two different vomiting emojis.

Mr. Patashnik accused one of the committee members of “taking full advantage of this moment,” according to the photos. “Huge fundraising potential,” he wrote.

The event was advertised as including a discussion of the climate at Columbia since the Hamas attack against Israel on October 7, the responsibility of universities in ensuring the safety of “not only Jewish students on campus but all students” and how Columbia can take action. straight ahead.

Panel speakers included David Schizer, dean emeritus of Columbia Law School and co-leader of the university’s task force on anti-Semitism.

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The controversy is the latest to affect the elite university since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas last fall and the emergence of Columbia University as a center for the campus protest movement that has swept the country.

In April, after weeks of student demonstrations during which demonstrators asked university leaders to divest from Israel, among other demands, a group of demonstrators occupied Hamilton Hall. Within days, Columbia University President Nemat Shafiq had the police department enter the university’s upper Manhattan campus to evacuate the building, leading to dozens of arrests.

This week witnessed the cases of 31 of the 46 people arrested and charged in the siege They were fired by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

In May, the university decided to cancel its main graduation ceremony, and instead hold smaller ceremonies for each of its 19 colleges. The same month, the school’s College of Arts and Sciences passed a motion of no confidence in Ms. Shafiq’s leadership after the students were arrested, creating further tension on campus.

Earlier this month, its board took down the website of the Columbia Law Review, one of the country’s most prestigious student-edited law journals, after its editors published a report. condition Arguing that the Palestinians were living under a “brutal and sophisticated structure of oppression” that amounts to a crime against humanity.

As protests intensified in Columbia over the spring, some Jewish students were targeted with anti-Semitic diatribes on and off campus. In early March, nine Jewish college students — including one from Columbia University — testified before members of Congress about feeling unsafe on their campuses and facing anti-Semitism.

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Pro-Palestinian student demonstrators in Colombia expressed fears that they would be provoked by pro-Israel groups who accused them of anti-Semitism. These protesters at Columbia University and other campuses faced online harassment, rescinded job offers and death threats. As a result, some chose not to reveal their full names publicly.

Virginia Foxx, a Republican representative from North Carolina who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, This week, Colombia demanded that officials’ text messages be shared With the committee by June 26.

“I was appalled, but unfortunately not surprised, to learn that Columbia administrators had exchanged offensive text messages during a panel that discussed anti-Semitism at the university,” Ms. Fox said in a statement last week. “Dean Joseph Surett’s weak private ‘apology’ to the college’s Board of Visitors shows that the school doesn’t understand. Columbia’s Jewish community deserves better than this.”