(December 8, 2021 / JNS) In a letter to faculty members, the president and provost of the University of Southern California wrote that legal considerations prevented them from discussing what, if any, actions were taken against a USC student who posted anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish tweets online, including one that mentioned wanting to “kill” the Zionists.
“As I am sure you are aware, we are legally required to protect student privacy and cannot discuss university processes or actions with respect to a specific student, much less denounce them publicly,” wrote USC president Carol Folt and provost Charles Zukoski, according to the online publication Insider Higher Ed.
That letter was in response to a Dec. 1 open letter—signed by 64 USC faculty members—asking the university to “voice a public, explicit and specific condemnation” of Yasmeen Mashayekh, a student in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, who posted the tweets.
Folt and Zukoski also stated: “In your letter, you assert that university leadership has not taken a strong position with respect to the tweets in question. We want to reassure you that nothing could be further from the truth.”
On Nov. 22, the watchdog group Canary Mission posted a video on Twitter highlighting tweets by Mashayekh, which were uploaded between May and June as Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli population centers. In her tweets, Mashayekh wrote: “I want to kill every motherf***ing Zionist,” “Curse the Jews,” “Israel has no history just a criminal record” and “Zionists are going to F***ing pay.”
She also tweeted: “I f***ing love Hamas.”
Folt and Zukoski said they learned about the social-media posts by Mashayekh over the summer, prompting her removal from a “paid mentoring position” at the engineering school.
Mashayekh confirmed that she was fired from her campus job and taken off the Viterbi Graduate Student Association website, where she was listed as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion senator, wrote The Forward.
The USC administrators also criticized the involvement of an “outside organization” in reviving the tweets.
“Just before Thanksgiving, the deleted tweets were republished by outside organizations, which urged supporters to protest by writing to the dean of the school, who had no control over either the original tweets or the student’s election to the student organization,” said the USC administrators. “Nevertheless, the Viterbi School quickly issued a public statement denouncing these hateful statements as being contrary to our university’s values. … It is appalling that anti-Semitism continues to exist as a scourge across the nation and the world, and we will continue to work tirelessly with you and others to stamp it out.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of global social action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JNS on Tuesday that the administration’s response to faculty did not go far enough and will be included in the Wiesenthal Center’s annual list of the “Top 10” worst anti-Semitic incidents.
Cooper noted that last year, Folt came out strongly against racism and announced measures the university would take to combat it on campus. By contrast, he said, this letter “about an overt Jew-hater, which sounds like it was reviewed by lawyers, is an outrage. Jews deserve the same treatment and protection promised to all.”
“There is one question the university and its leader have to answer,” he said. “If [similar] comments were made about black students, what would the school’s response be?”
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