Columbia University Removes Deans Caught Sending Texts With ‘Antisemitic Tropes’ During Campus Event On ‘Jewish Life’

Columbia University removed three deans from their positions after they were caught sending text messages that touched on “antisemitic tropes” during a campus event on Jewish life.

The university placed Susan Chang-Kim, former vice dean and chief administrative officer, Matthew Patashnick, former associate dean for student and family support, and Cristen Kromm, former dean of undergraduate student life, on leave in June after they exchanged dismissive text messages about the “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present, and Future” panel. The three are on indefinite leave and will not return to their previous jobs, according to a Monday message to the campus community.

“This incident 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,” University President Minouche Shafik wrote.

Columbia College Dean Josef Sorett, who was also a part of the text exchange, will continue in his role at the college, according to the letter. Sorett “apologized and [took] full responsibility,” and he “reached out to leaders of [the campus’] Jewish community for their partnership.”

“I deeply regret my role in these text exchanges,” Sorett said in an email, according to The New York Times. He had said in a previous email that the photos of the texts were “an invasion of privacy.”

The university will launch a “vigorous program of antisemitism and antidiscrimination program” for faculty and staff beginning in the fall, according to the community message.

The panel discussion featured Brian Cohen, executive director of Columbia/Barnard Hillel, and David Schizer, former law school dean and a member of the university’s antisemitism task force, according to the NYT. Patashnick wrote that one panelist was taking “full advantage of this moment” and that it had “huge fundraising potential,” while Kromm used vomit emojis to refer to an op-ed by campus rabbi Yonah Hain, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

Pro-Palestinian protesters set up an unauthorized, weeks-long encampment at the university near the end of the semester to demand the administration boycott, divest and sanction Israel over its counteroffensive following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Dozens of people were arrested after occupying Hamilton Hall in April, and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg dismissed nearly all of the charges in June.

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