Three Columbia deans placed on leave over texts sent during antisemitism panel

Three Columbia deans placed on leave over texts sent during antisemitism panel

Columbia University put three deans on leave after insensitive text messages surfaced, revealing a disrespectful exchange that took place during a discussion about antisemitism on campus.

A Columbia spokesperson told the Washington Free Beacon that the three administrators had been placed on leave were Vice Dean and Chief Administrative Officer Susan Chang-Kim, Associate Dean for Student and Family Support Matthew Patashnick, and Dean of Undergraduate Student Life Cristen Kromm.

The messages were exchanged during a May 31 Columbia College reunion panel discussion called “Jewish Life on Campus” focused on “the climate on campus since the October 7 attack.” The New York City campus took center stage in the turbulent college protests that erupted across the nation over the war in Gaza.

As panelists, including the co-leader of Columbia’s antisemitism task force and the head of the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, spoke about concerns they had about antisemitism on campus, the elite school’s top administrators dismissed them, photos of the texts obtained by the Free Beacon reveal.

In one exchange, Patashnick allegedly wrote to Chang-Kim and Kromm: “He knows exactly what he’s doing and how to take full advantage of this moment. Huge fundraising potential.” It’s not clear who the associate dean was referring to.

Chang-Kim replied: “Double Urgh.”

Josef Sorett, the Dean of Columbia College, “informed his team today that three administrators have been placed on leave pending a university investigation of the incident that occurred at the College alumni reunion several weeks ago,” the spokesman told the outlet.

Sorett “reiterated his commitment to learning from this situation and other incidents over the last year to build a community of respect and healthy dialogue,” the spokesperson added.

Sorett also took part in the text exchange, according to the texts obtained by the Free Beacon. Chang-Kim seemed to be sarcastically describing Cohen, the Hillel official, as “our hero.”

Sorett responded with, “LMAO,” which is short for “laughing my a** off.”

In another exchange, Chang-Kim reportedly fired off the text: “Difficult to listen to but I’m trying to keep an open mind to learn about this point of view.” Sorett agreed, texting: “Yup.”

“Columbia College is attending to this situation with the utmost seriousness,” a spokesperson for Columbia College said in a statement to The Independent., adding that it will not be discussing the specifics of the matter while the university’s investigation is ongoing. “The College remains focused on continuing to execute its mission in support of our community. We are committed to confronting antisemitism, discrimination and hate, and taking concrete action to ensure that our is a community of respect and healthy dialogue where everyone feels valued and safe.”

In a statement sent to the Dean to the Columbia College Board of Visitors on Friday afternoon, Sorett said: “I deeply regret my role in these text exchanges and the impact they have had on our community. I am cooperating fully with the University’s investigation of these matters. I am committed to learning from this situation and to the work of confronting antisemitism, discrimination and hate at Columbia.“

Sorett is cooperating with the investigation and he will be recused from all matters relating to the probe while continuing to serve as Dean of the College.

The controversy comes after Columbia’s student protests garnered national attention and the university’s president, Minouche Shafik, faced intense scrutiny over her handling of the demonstrations.

Shafik was criticized after she called the NYPD to intervene, resulting in the arrests of hundreds of students. She also came under fire for her response to concerns of antisemitism on campus during a heated congressional hearing.

Earlier this week, all criminal charges were dropped against dozens of pro-Palestinian student protesters arrested in April after occupying and barricading a building at Columbia University in New York City.