Columbia University Removes Deans Over Anti-Semitic Text Messages

Private message exchanges “touched on” tropes that disparage Jews, Columbia University has said

Three top administrative officials at Columbia University in New York have been dismissed for making “anti-Semitic” statements in text messages. The institution has faced controversy in recent months due to protests that have allegedly included both anti-Semitic and anti-Palestinian discrimination.

Columbia released a statement on Tuesday stating that the staff members involved “have been permanently removed from their positions” for engaging in “very troubling text message exchanges” that “disturbingly touched on ancient anti-Semitic tropes.” 

The exchange occurred during a panel discussion about Jewish life on campus at an alumni event in May. Susan Chang-Kim, then vice dean and chief administrative officer, exchanged text messages with colleagues during the event. A person sitting behind her captured photographs of her phone screen while she was texting.  

The photos of the private correspondence were published by conservative website The Washington Free Beacon last month, while the full correspondence was recently made public by a congressional committee investigating anti-Semitism at Columbia.

The messages included vomit emojis in response to an op-ed by the campus rabbi, dollar signs, and statements characterized by the university as “unacceptable and deeply upsetting.” 

The exchanges also included concerns about Jewish students who do not support Israel not having a designated space to gather on campus. One message defended pro-Palestine student protesters, noting that they were not demonstrating in support of the Hamas militant group, as some media reports had suggested.

Other participants in the exchange were identified as Cristen Kromm, former dean of undergraduate student life, Matthew Patashnick, former associate dean for student and family support, and Josef Sorett, the dean of Columbia College.

Sorett is retaining his position on campus after issuing an apology and taking full responsibility for the incident, according to the statement.

Columbia University has attracted controversy since the beginning of the latest conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas in October. Pro-Palestinian students established a solidarity encampment on the campus lawn in April, triggering similar actions around the world. Activists accused the university of supporting Israel while disregarding the plight of the Palestinians.

The administration and some Jewish students claimed that the pro-Palestinian protesters were creating an unsafe and hostile environment. The university took action against the encampment by calling in police. More than 1,000 arrests were made, and over 100 students were suspended.