Three deans belonging to the administration of Columbia University were fired after reports broke about “antisemitic tropes” being traded back and forth in their text message group chat regarding a panel on antisemitism they attended. The president of Columbia, Nemat (Minouche) Shafik, condemned the messages as “unacceptable and deeply upsetting,” adding that they “convey[ed] a lack of seriousness about the concerns and the experiences of members of our Jewish community.” This comes after months of controversy surrounding the school’s perceived leniency regarding anti-Israel discourse on campus.

A reporter for conservative news site Free Beacon released photos taken behind the shoulder of vice dean and chief administrative officer of Columbia College Susan Chang-kim, revealing a text conversation she was having with Cristen Kromm, the dean of undergraduate student life, and Matthew Patashnick, the associate dean for student and family support. Included in a different chat was Josef Sorrett, the dean of Columbia College.

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According to the report, Chang-kim exchanged texts with the group criticizing a two-hour-long panel on the “past, present, and future” of Jewish life on campus. They discussed antisemitism on Columbia’s campus after the Oct. 7th terrorist attack, pro-Palestine protestors taking over the university’s properties, and a recently settled lawsuit between the school and a Jewish student alleging an unsafe environment.

The deans, who were supposed to be there to show support, spent the time mocking what was being said on stage. One dean said it was “difficult to listen to,” another sent vomiting emojis in regard to an op-ed from the campus rabbi, and one criticized what he saw as their exploitation of the events for their “fundraising potential.”

“Comes from such a place of privilege … hard to hear the woe is me, we need to huddle at the Kraft center,” Chang-Kim said about one of the panelists’ comments about the increase in student participation at a Jewish cultural and religious center on campus.

Amazing what $$$ can do,” one of them said in response to a Jewish mother crying in the audience, who had said she met with a staffer in the development office to discuss her daughter’s emotional state.

The messages are “antithetical to our university’s values and the standards,” President Shafik said.

Jonathan Sobel, a former chairman of the Columbia College Fund, said he was “saddened by the texts but not surprised.”

“For months, many of us had suspected that antisemitism at Columbia was widespread, accepted and existed at or near the highest levels. … The jocular and casual nature of the texts made them particularly concerning,” he added. “It makes one think that they’ve had many similar conversations in the past.”

Josef Sorrett, despite the fact that he laughed along with the remarks, will not be terminated according to university provost Angela V. Olinto, and will remain on as the Dean of the College. “Dean Sorett and I will work together to mend relationships, repair trust, and rebuild accountability,” she said.

In a letter Sorett wrote to the “Columbia community,” he said he understands “that some of the texts suggest a seeming dismissiveness with regards to the impact that the global rise of antisemitism has had on Columbia’s campus” but added that he is “dedicated to leading the College community to higher standards of professionalism, and to rebuilding trust.”

More than 1,000 alumni and Columbia associates signed a petition to remove him as dean, saying he along with the administrators that were fired “are not fit to serve as deans of Columbia College and should be removed from their positions immediately.”

Shane Devine is a writer covering politics and business for VT and a regular guest on The Unusual Suspects. Follow Shane’s work here.

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