Columbia University removes deans who mocked antisemitism concerns in wake of Gaza protests

NEW YORK — Three Columbia University administrators who “engaged in very troubling text message exchanges” in the aftermath of relentless pro-Palestinian campus protests have been permanently removed from their positions, President Minouche Shafik and officials announced Monday.

The group had been placed on leave pending an investigation since a reunion panel on Jewish life on campus on May 31.

“This incident revealed behavior and sentiments that were not only unprofessional, but also, disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes,” Shafik wrote in an email to students and faculty.

“Whether intended as such or not, these sentiments are unacceptable and deeply upsetting, conveying a lack of seriousness about the concerns and the experiences of members of our Jewish community that is antithetical to our University’s values and the standards we must uphold in our community.”

It was not immediately clear if they remained employed by the university in other roles.

The text exchange, first published in the conservative news outlet the Washington Free Beacon last month, showed Cristen Kromm, the dean of undergraduate student life, fired off two sick and vomit emojis referencing a campus rabbi’s op-ed about antisemitism. Later in the panel, the dean remarked: “Amazing what $$$$ can do.”

Another administrator, Matthew Patashnick, the associate dean for student and family support, said Hillel Executive Director Brian Cohen “knows exactly what he’s doing and how to take full advantage of this moment. Huge fundraising potential.”

A third officials, Susan Chang-Kim, the vice dean and chief administrative officer of Columbia College, said panelists came from “such a place of privilege.”

“Hard to hear the woe is me, we need to huddle at the Kraft center,” said Chang-Kim, referring to the Jewish life campus building. “Huh??”

Last spring, Columbia was roiled by campus protests against Israel’s war in Gaza, including an encampment in the heart of campus calling for divestment. Shafik summoned the NYPD to clear the demonstration. Shortly after, students set up new tents until a smaller group of protesters occupied a campus building and spurred Shafik to call the police again, who arrested more than 100 demonstrators.

Last month, the cases of 31 of the 46 people who were charged with trespassing in Hamilton Hall were dismissed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Others were offered a deal that would see their charges dismissed if they were not arrested again but declined. They’re due back in court in a couple of weeks.

Shafik said Columbia will launch a “vigorous” program of antisemitism and broader anti-discrimination training for faculty and staff this fall, plus related sessions for students led by the Office of University Life.

“While this disturbing incident has presented us challenges as a community, Columbia’s leadership team recognizes this as an important moment to implement changes that will build a stronger institution as a result,” the university president said.