I Took Pictures of a Columbia Dean’s Phone. Here’s Why.

The photographs were no ‘invasion of privacy.’ I was documenting an injustice.

The Alma Mater in front of the Low Memorial Library, Columbia University (Getty Images)

June 18, 2024

I am a Columbia University graduate and longtime donor to the school who has been deeply disturbed by the hatred and bigotry Jewish students have faced on campus. The school’s task force on anti-Semitism has documented hundreds of cases, from a professor who allegedly singled out a student with a Jewish-sounding last name, demanding the student account for Israel’s prosecution of the war against Hamas, to another who allegedly warned students to avoid the mainstream media because “it’s owned by Jews,” to the ostracization of pro-Israel students on campus. The situation is so dire that Columbia Hillel’s director, Brian Cohen, said last month that only governmental intervention can improve conditions.

Cohen made that assessment at a panel on anti-Semitism held during alumni reunions. I was there hoping to see the school I love address this crisis. Instead, I was shocked to witness administrators openly mocking the people they had supposedly come to listen to.

As panelists shared heartbreaking accounts, four undergraduate deans—Josef Sorett, Susan Chang-Kim, Cristen Kromm, and Matthew Patashnick—sat in a row, texting each other derisive comments about Jews. Documenting their conduct became a moral imperative, and I took pictures as they shot messages back and forth. I could hardly turn away when I saw a message from Patashnick arguing that Cohen “knows exactly what he’s doing” to “take full advantage of this moment,” which has “huge fundraising potential.”

I am writing this anonymously because I fear reprisal for speaking out about the anti-Semitism crisis at Columbia, particularly given the increasingly hostile climate on campus and the radicalized protests in New York City and across the United States.

When the texts became public, Sorett had the gall to send a note to Columbia leaders stating that the deans “prioritized attending this panel as part of our ongoing effort to listen to the range of experiences of our Jewish community.” He went on to argue that my decision to photograph the deans’ text exchanges was an “invasion of privacy.” The deans, busy on their phones, weren’t doing much listening, and there is certainly no expectation of privacy when broadcasting one’s bigotry in an open forum.

Even more alarming is the hypocrisy those messages revealed. Columbia’s leaders have said one thing publicly—university president Minouche Shafik told Congress that anti-Semitism is “antithetical to Columbia’s values,” yet the deans’ messages betrayed just that.

If Shafik is sincere about confronting anti-Semitism, she should take decisive action. At minimum, the deans should be placed on immediate leave pending investigation. If Shafik isn’t up to the task, it will again fall on Congress: The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is now demanding that the university produce the administrators’ text messages so that lawmakers and the American people can see them in full.

My decision to take and disseminate those photographs was an act of loyalty to the school I love—or used to—and a plea for Columbia to uphold its values. No more words. It’s time for the university to demonstrate through its actions that anti-Semitism has no place at Columbia.

Original News Source – Washington Free Beacon

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