School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a prestigious art college located downtown in the Windy City, engages in “pervasive and severe antisemitic harassment and discrimination under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” according to a lawsuit that the Chicago and Newport Beach, Calif.-based law firm Much filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Dec. 22.
An art therapy master’s student named Shiran alleges that Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi, an assistant professor at the school, assigned her and classmates an assignment in a course on “materials and media in art therapy” that required them to respond to images purportedly drawn by Palestinian children that depicted “Israeli soldiers engaged in brutal violence,” per Much.
“It also required the students to answer a second prompt about child sexual assault that involved artwork using Hebrew-language text bubbles (thereby suggesting the sex offenders were Israeli subjects),” per the firm. “The new final assignment gratuitously incorporated inflammatory content uniquely targeted at Shiran in apparent retaliation for previous complaints she raised about persistent and severe antisemitism.”
Per the law firm, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago retracted the anti-Israel assignment “after receiving notice that Shiran intended to file for a temporary restraining order in federal court to enjoin the school from assigning the offending material.”
But the professor “continued harassing Shiran and retaliating against her,” Much stated. “The professor persisted in targeting Shiran with discussions regarding the handling of upsetting material, changes to the course’s grading and rubric that would uniquely harm Shiran’s grade, and the solicitation and acceptance of hostile and discriminatory feedback from classmates regarding Shiran’s presentations.”
“Since the Hamas terror attack on October 7, Shiran, who is Jewish and of Israeli origin, has faced constant harassment and discriminatory treatment, from both faculty and fellow students,” it added.
According to Much and screenshots posted on social media, a professor at the school wrote on social media in mid-October—shortly after Hamas terrorists brutally attacked Israel on Oct. 7—that “Israelis are pigs. Savages. Very very bad people. Irredeemable excrement. … May they all rot in hell.”
“Shiran sent inquiries to multiple members of the faculty and administration seeking assurances that she was safe on campus,” per the law firm. “She received no response to her initial email or the two follow-ups she sent, and has still received no response—nearly two months later.”
The student also alleges that a professor at the school allowed a Muslim student to stop collaborating with her on an assignment “solely because Shiran ‘denies the genocide so clearly taking place.'”
The assignment with the children’s drawings allegedly stated: “Sometimes we can also work with clients’ experiences/backgrounds that are ‘too close to home’ and we need to deal with our own complicated feelings, internalized racism/ ableism/ homophobia/ supremacy and countertransference, etc. Can you keep it professional and still empathize with clients even when the content of their art upsets or triggers you?”
“Shiran is the only student in the class from Israel or the Palestinian territories. In other words, she is the only student for whom the images could be described as ‘too close to home,'” per the firm. “The other students did not receive a corresponding assignment asking them to respond to images that might ‘upset’ or ‘trigger’ them, such as drawings by Israeli children depicting Hamas’s genocidal violence against innocent Israelis.”
Shiran’s full name appears in the filing and in Much’s original news release, but a public relations firm representing her asked JNS not to use her last name, citing security concerns.
The New York Post reported that Shiran’s father-in-law is a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, and that Shiran, her husband and her in-laws are named on the museum’s website in connection to the purchase of Gerrit van Honthorst’s early 17th century painting “A Boy Blowing on a Firebrand.”
The art school stated that it “strongly condemns antisemitism and any discrimination based on religion, nationality, or any other aspect of a person’s identity. We have policies in place that prohibit discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and the school is unequivocally committed to providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all of our students, faculty and staff.”