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College TA Under Investigation for Asking Whether to Lower Pro-Israel Students Grades


January 21, 2021

Photo by: Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock

Johns Hopkins University is investigating a pro-Palestinian teaching assistant after discovering tweets about lowering pro-Israel students' grades.

"We are aware of an incident of alleged anti-Semitism and potential abuse of authority in the discharge of academic responsibilities on our campus," university officials said in a letter to Hopkins Hillel, an on-campus Jewish organization, acquired by the College Fix.

"While we are constrained in what we can share with you and others about matters such as these, we wish to assure you that we take seriously any and all allegations of discrimination, harassment, or other misconduct—including anti-Semitism," the letter continued.

In an emailed statement to Newsweek on Thursday, the university noted it's Office of Institutional Equity is responsible for the investigation.

According to the university, the investigation will include interviews of all parties and witnesses involved, reviews of documentary evidence, and analysis of all other relevant information.

The TA has been assigned to the university's Applied Chemical Equilibrium and Reactivity course for two years and served as the head TA last fall semester.

Although the TA's Twitter feed has been taken down, screenshots of the tweets were saved by local Baltimore television station WBFF.

One of the Twitter posts was a November poll. The tweet read: "Ethical dilemma: if you have to grade zionist students exams, do you still give them all their points even though they support your ethnic cleansing? Like idk."

The two answer choices were: "Yes. Be a good TA" or "Free Palestine! Fail them." The screenshots of the poll showed that 22.2 percent voted for the first response, while 77.8 percent voted for the second.

According to WBFF, five days after the poll was posted, the TA tweeted other controversial commentaries about pro-Israel students. The tweets included comments about student's race and mocked one specific Jewish student who had taken a Birthright trip to Israel.

"We had an undergrad in lab who had been on birthright and had one of the street signs to Tel Aviv on her laptop," said the TA's tweet. "It stabbed me every time she opened it. If I had been paired to one of them or one of these conceited white boys, I would have lost it."

In a statement to the television station, the TA said, despite the tweets, she acted with "the utmost integrity and fairness" while grading students.

Stand With Us, a pro-Israel organization, has since condemned the TA's comments in a December letter to the university.

The organization stated the tweets were "clear expressions of intent by a teaching assistant to punish students on the basis of their race, their Jewish identity, or their national origin as Israelis—all protected categories under state and federal non-discrimination laws."

In an emailed statement to Newsweek on Thursday, Provost Sunil Kumar and Christopher Celenza, dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, said the university doesn't "tolerate any link between academic grading and bias and have taken all necessary steps to ensure that does not occur."

"Expression of bias or hate, and certainly threats to act upon them, are inimical to our institution's values," they added. "At the same time, we take seriously our obligation to treat all parties to an investigation with fairness and privacy."

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