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Columbia administrators mocked Jewish community concerns in private texts

Christen Kromm, the school's dean of undergraduate student life, texted fellow administrators, 'amazing what $$$$ can do'

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

For the fifth day, anti-Israel students occupy a central lawn on the Columbia University campus, on April 21, 2024 in New York City.

Columbia University administrators mocked concerns in the Jewish community about antisemitism and anti-Israel activity on campus, as well as accused the community of using the issue for financial and other gain, in private text messages released on Tuesday by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Some of the text messages, exchanged between administrators during a panel on Jewish life on campus, were revealed last month in a Washington Free Beacon report, which included images of the text chat captured by an onlooker. The full text chat, requested by the committee, reveals a further level of vitriol.

Speakers on the panel included former Columbia Law School Dean David Schizer, who leads the school’s antisemitism task force; Brian Cohen, the executive director of Columbia’s Kraft Center for Jewish Life; Ian Rottenberg, the school’s dean of religious life; and Rebecca Massel, a journalist with the Columbia Daily Spectator. 

The exact context of some of the messages, many of which appear to be in response to specific comments made by members of the panel, is not clear.

Susan Chang-Kim, the chief administrator of Columbia College; Cristen Kromm, dean of undergraduate student life; and Matthew Patashnick, associate dean of student and family support, have all been placed on leave following the Free Beacon’s original report regarding the messages. The texts from the officials appeared to downplay and denigrate the concerns expressed by the Jewish campus leaders and students. Josef Sorett, the dean of Columbia College, was also involved in the chain, and remains in his post.

“Comes from such a place of privilege… hard to hear the woe is me, we need to huddle at the Kraft center. Huh??” Chang texted the group.

Kromm agreed, emphasizing the needs and interests of anti-Zionist Jews. “Yup. Blind to the idea that non-Israel supporting Jews have no space to come together.”

Chang responded that she was “trying to be open minded to understand but the doors are closing.”

At the end of the panel, Kromm sent two vomiting emojis into the chat, to which Chang-Kim responded, “I’m going to throw up.”

Kromm added, “amazing what $$$$ can do.”

Kromm and Patashnick mocked at least one of the speakers for, they suggested, trying to portray himself as a “hero,” a notion that Sorett laughed at.

The administrators also dismissed the concerns raised by Columbia Hillel’s Cohen as disingenuous or a ploy for other interests.

“He knows exactly what he’s doing and how to take full advantage of this moment. Huge fundraising potential,” Patashnick said, a sentiment that was endorsed by Chang-Kim and Kromm.

“He is such a problem!!!” Chang-Kim said of one of the speakers. “Painting our students as dangerous.”

Patashnick also complained that speakers were “laying the case to expand physical space!” adding, “they will have their own dorm soon.”

Kromm lamented, “if only every identity community had these resources and support.”

The officials also dismissed the notion that Jewish students were expelled from clubs for their identities, and largely brushed off accusations that some Columbia students had expressed support for Hamas.

Chang-Kim called the panel “difficult to listen to,” with which Sorett agreed, while Kromm called one of the speakers “strategic” in his portrayal of events on campus.

Chang-Kim also appeared to question why the issue was a subject of discussion for Columbia’s board of trustees.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the chair of the House committee, condemned the officials in a statement.

“Jewish students deserve better than to have harassment and threats against them dismissed as ‘privilege,’ and Jewish faculty members deserve better than to be mocked by their colleagues,” said Foxx. “These text messages once again confirm the need for serious accountability across Columbia’s campus.”

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