3 Columbia University administrators ousted from posts over controversial texts

July 8, 2024
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Calls to reinstate charges against Columbia protesters


Calls to reinstate charges against Columbia protesters

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NEW YORK – Three administrators have been “permanently removed from their positions” at Columbia College and “remain on leave” over texts they exchanged during an on-campus event about Jewish life at the school, Columbia University’s president announced Monday. 

It happened during the school’s reunion weekend at the end of May. The program was called “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present and Future,” and took place a month after university leaders called in police to clear pro-Palestinian protesters out of an occupied administration building and dismantle a tent encampment that had threatened to disrupt graduation ceremonies.

One of the controversial messages suggested a panelist could have used recent campus protests as a fundraising opportunity. Another appeared critical of a campus rabbi’s essay about antisemitism.

Texts “touched on ancient antisemitic tropes”

“This incident revealed behavior and sentiments that were not only unprofessional, but also, disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes,” Columbia President Minouche Shafik wrote in a letter to the Columbia community. “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.”

Shafik said the school will “launch a vigorous program of antisemitism and antidiscrimination training for faculty and staff this fall.” Similar training will also be given to students. 

Columbia 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.”  

Columbia College Dean Josef Sorett, whose text messages were among those published by the Free Beacon, will continue to lead the college after apologizing and committing to working to fix damage caused by the text exchanges, Olinto said. He and his administration will be expected to “deliver concrete change in combating antisemitism and discrimination and creating a fully inclusive environment,” Olinto wrote.

“While not intended as such, some of the text messages exchanged may call to mind antisemitic tropes,” Sorett said in a letter Monday to the Columbia College community. “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,” Sorett continued. He said “the loss of trust and the pain this incident has caused, particularly to the Jewish members of our community, must be fully repaired.”  

The university did not identify the administrators, who were initially put on leave in June after images of their text exchange were published online by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet. The content of the texts was additionally released by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce last week. 

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