Columbia University removes three deans after texts ‘touched on antisemitic tropes’

Columbia University removes three deans after texts ‘touched on antisemitic tropes’

Three senior officials at Columbia University have been removed from their posts for sending text messages earlier this year that “disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes,” the university told community members in a letter, The New York Times reports.

The officials—Cristen Kromm, former dean of undergrad student life; Matthew Patashnick, former associate dean for student and family support; and Susan Chang-Kim, former vice dean and chief administrative officer—will remain at the university, but are on indefinite leave, per the letter on Monday.

The scandal began last month, when The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, published photos of text messages between the administrators, which were snapped during a May panel on campus about Jewish life.

During the event, where participants shared their experiences of facing antisemitism on campus, the images captured the high-level officials appearing to mock panelists.

"He knows exactly what he’s doing and how to take full advantage of this moment," Patashnick allegedly wrote of one panelist, describing the panelist as seeking “huge fundraising potential.”

As a panelist spoke of a surge in attendance at a Jewish student center, Chang-Kim kim allegedly wrote, “Comes from such a place of privilege … hard to hear the woe is me, we need to huddle at the Kraft center.”

Kromm, meanwhile, allegedly posted vomit emojis underneath a reference to an essay by a campus rabbi, published last year in a campus paper, alleging some on campus had embraced a “normalization of Hamas.”

The Independent has sought comment from the deans named in Columbia’s letter.

The text messages sparked outrage among the Columbia community beyond.

More than 1,000 alumni called for the ouster of one of the deans involved in the text conversations, while a Republican-controlled committee in the US House of Representatives sought records of the text messages from Columbia, a request the university granted.

In the message to campus on Monday, Columbia president Nemat Shafik called the messages “unacceptable and deeply upsetting, conveying a lack of seriousness about the concerns and the experiences of members of our Jewish community.”

As The Independent has reported, Columbia has been at the center of the nationwide wave of protests and counter-protests surrounding the Israel-Hamas war, where students have occupied campus buildings, and protesters faced a violent crackdown from NYPD riot police on campus.

Students and faculty from a variety of different backgrounds have claimed to feel unsafe and silenced from sharing their views.

The school is under federal investigation for alleged antisemitism and Islamaphobia on campus.