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Columbia University Deans Suspended for Texts at Antisemitism Panel

Photo : AP

Columbia University has taken action by placing three administrators on leave amid allegations of exchanging unprofessional text messages during an on-campus panel discussion about antisemitism. The controversy unfolded following the panel titled "Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present and Future," which was part of an alumni reunion event hosted by Columbia College on May 31.

According to statements from the university, Josef Sorett, the dean of Columbia College, informed his team on Thursday about the decision to place the administrators on leave. The university emphasized its commitment to addressing antisemitism, discrimination, and promoting a respectful and safe community environment.

While Columbia did not disclose the identities of the administrators involved, it acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and stated that an investigation is underway. The university refrained from providing further details citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

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The controversy gained attention after the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, published screenshots of alleged text messages exchanged by the administrators. One message reportedly suggested that a panelist could use campus protests for fundraising purposes, while another appeared critical of an essay by a campus rabbi on antisemitism.

The panel on antisemitism occurred amidst heightened tensions on campus, particularly following incidents involving protests related to Israel's military actions in Gaza. The university had previously called in police to remove pro-Palestinian protesters occupying an administration building and dismantling a tent encampment that posed disruptions during graduation ceremonies.

Josef Sorett, although his text messages were among those published, was not placed on leave. In a statement addressed to the Columbia College Board of Visitors, Sorett expressed regret for his role in the text exchanges and acknowledged their impact on the university community. He reaffirmed his commitment to confronting antisemitism, discrimination, and fostering an inclusive campus environment.

The incident underscores ongoing challenges and divisions within the university community regarding issues of antisemitism and free speech, prompting Columbia University to address these concerns through a formal investigation and reaffirm its commitment to upholding a culture of respect and dialogue on campus.

June 24, 2024 1:05 p.m. 403

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