3 Columbia University administrators put on leave over alleged text exchange at antisemitism panel

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University said it has placed three administrators on leave while it investigates allegations that they exchanged unprofessional text messages while attending a panel discussion about antisemitism on campus.

The university said the administrators work for its undergraduate Columbia College, which hosted the panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present and Future” during an alumni reunion on May 31.

The university said the college’s dean, Josef Sorett, informed his team on Thursday that the three administrators were being put on leave.

“Columbia College is attending to this situation with the utmost seriousness,” a college spokesperson said. “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.”

Columbia did not identify the administrators by name and declined to discuss the matter further while the investigation is pending.

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, published images on June 12 and 21 of what it said were the administrators' text messages. One included a suggestion that a panelist could have used the campus protests for fundraising and another that appeared critical of a campus rabbi’s essay about antisemitism.

The panel about antisemitism was held a month after university leaders called in police to clear pro-Palestinian protesters out of an occupied administration building and dismantle a tent encampment that had threatened to disrupt graduation ceremonies.

The police action came amid deep divisions on campus as to whether some of the protests against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza have been antisemitic.

Some text messages allegedly sent by Sorett were among those published by the news outlet, but he was not among those put on leave. He will continue to serve as dean and is cooperating with the investigation, the university said.

“I deeply regret my role in these text exchanges and the impact they have had on our community,” Sorett said in a message Friday to the Columbia College Board of Visitors.

Sorett said he is “committed to learning from this situation and to the work of confronting antisemitism, discrimination and hate at Columbia.”

06/23/2024 22:54 -0400

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