update deskSchools & Higher Education

Columbia ‘grown-ups’ in room text emojis, offensive comments during panel on antisemitism

Incorporating an antisemitic trope during a panel on Jewish life, associate dean Matthew Patashnick texted that one of the speakers knows “how to take full advantage of this moment.”

The statue in front of Low Memorial Library on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. Credit: Nowhereman86 via Wikimedia Commons.
The statue in front of Low Memorial Library on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. Credit: Nowhereman86 via Wikimedia Commons.

A two-hour panel discussion on the past, present and future of Jewish life at Columbia University during a class reunion weekend resulted in a childish flurry of offensive reactions from four school administrators, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

The group talk on May 31 featured David Schizer, the former dean of Columbia Law School who co-chaired the college’s task force on antisemitism; Brian Cohen, executive director of Columbia’s Kraft Center for Jewish Life; Ian Rottenberg, dean of religious life; and junior Rebecca Massel, a writer for the Columbia Spectator student newspaper.

Photos from the event revealed a text-message chat between four administrators sitting in the audience: Josef Sorett, dean of Columbia College; Susan Chang-Kim, vice dean and chief administrative officer of Columbia College; Cristen Kromm, dean of undergraduate student life; and Matthew Patashnick, associate dean for student and family support.

Incorporating an antisemitic trope about Jews and money, Patashnick wrote that one of the panelists “knows exactly what he’s doing and how to take full advantage of this moment. Huge fundraising potential.”

Chang-Kim chimed in that the panel is “making the administration look like jokers.”

She continued, texting Sorett: “This is difficult to listen to but I’m trying to keep an open mind to learn about this point of view.”

“Yup,” he replied.

She also doubted the experiences of Jewish students on campus, asking: “Did we really have students being kicked out of clubs for being Jewish?”

The Beacon wrote that “the text messages betray an attitude of ignorance and indifference toward the concerns of Jewish students on a campus” that was rocked with some of the worst anti-Jewish, anti-Israel actions and rhetoric in the United States this spring.

When one of the panelists broke down crying over her daughter’s antisemitic experiences this year at Columbia, Chang-Kim shared “nauseous” and “vomiting” emojis with the group.

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