Three Columbia University Deans Placed On Leave For Texting During Antisemitism Panel

Columbia University Daily Report June 22,2024

Columbia University has placed three of its deans on leave after revelations that they had sent harsh text messages during a panel at an alumni event.

The messages were obtained May 31 by an alumnus who recorded them during a conversation among Josef Sorett, Susan Chang-Kim, Matthew Patashnick and Cristen Kromm, staff members holding administrative titles at the Ivy League school, about Jewish life on campus.

Over the course of this two-hour panel, the group spammed in disparaging messages as speakers recounted the toll that heightened antisemitism due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas was taking on Jewish students and faculty at Columbia.

Speakers included former Columbia Law School dean David Schizer, co-chair of the university’s antisemitism task force; Brian Cohen, executive director of Columbia’s Kraft Center for Jewish Life; Ian Rottenberg, Columbia’s dean of religious life; and student journalist Rebecca Massel.

The deans texted to one another as panelists detailed the dangerous surroundings Jewish students have been subjected to considering the fact that Hamas launched a large-scale attack on Israel in October.

Kromm was also cited for an exchange in which she answered an October 2023 op-ed by campus rabbi Yonah Hain, who had sounded the alarm about a moral slide within the university community during anti-Israel protests, with nauseous- and vomiting-emojis.

Another exchange showed Patashnick, the associate dean for student and family support, accusing an unnamed panel member of taking advantage of the situation fundraising-wise, to which Chang-Kim, vice dean and chief administrative officer of Columbia College responded “Double Urgh.”

In an email to the Board of Visitors, Sorett apologized for the harm inflicted by these messages and said they were not representative of the people who wrote them or their team. He said he was not pleased with the group chat being made public by someone outside the “unknown third-party”, saying it was an act of invasion of privacy.

Sorett also had a statement instructing respect and constructive exchange in the community, but has not been suspended as of Friday night, the Beacon reported.

In a statement to the Post, a Columbia University spokesperson said: “We are committed to combating antisemitism and taking sustained, concrete action to ensure Columbia is a campus where Jewish students and everyone in our community feels safe, valued, and able to thrive.”

Protesters established pop-up tent cities on the campus earlier this year, often clashing with Police. One such major incident took place at the end of April when a group of pro-Hamas supporters assembled in Hamilton Hall with their faces covered, smashed one window with a hammer and hung a large banner from another second-floor window urging that an “intifada” (uprising) be launched.

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