By: Aaron Bandler | Jewish Journal | April 5, 2023
The complaint, filed in January, alleged that the university failed to take proper action against Assistant Professor of Psychology Lara Sheehi, who is accused in the complaint of targeting and invalidating the identities of Jewish Israeli students in her class and then retaliating against them when they complained to university administrators
StandWithUs announced on April 4 that they have been informed by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that they will be investigating their complaint against George Washington University (GWU).
The complaint, filed in January, alleged that the university failed to take proper action against Assistant Professor of Psychology Lara Sheehi, who is accused in the complaint of targeting and invalidating the identities of Jewish Israeli students in her class and then retaliating against them when they complained to university administrators. Sheehi defended herself in a lengthy CounterPunch post the following month, arguing that StandWithUs “willfully misrepresents facts” in their complaint and were targeting a pro-Palestinian Arab woman.
More recently, GWU President Mark S. Wrighton announced on March 27 that a third-party investigation conducted by the law firm Crowell & Moring “found no evidence substantiating the allegations of discriminatory and retaliatory conduct alleged in the complaint,” according to a Summary of Findings from the investigation. “Many of the statements the complaint alleges were made by Dr. Sheehi were, according to those who heard them, either inaccurate or taken out of context and misrepresented.” The summary also states that StandWithUs “and a few of the students in the class, advocated for an expansive view of the definition of antisemitism, which, if accepted in the university environment, could infringe on free speech principles and academic freedom.” StandWithUs stood by their complaint and urged GWU to release the full investigation report rather than simply a summary.
“While professors may enjoy the right to spew wrongheaded and even hateful ideologies in some circumstances, they do not have the right to subject students to discriminatory conduct based on those views,” StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein said in a statement. “University administrators have an affirmative obligation to respond adequately when students report allegations of such misconduct. We are pleased that OCR has recognized the need to investigate these allegations in a thorough and unbiased manner.”
“We are hopeful that, rather than continuing to circle the wagons in an effort to protect its own reputation, GW will finally be required to join the ranks of those administrations who recognize the need to take real, meaningful steps to support Jewish students and combat anti-Jewish bigotry on campus in its many forms,” StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism Director Carly Gammill said in a statement.
A university spokesperson said in a statement to the Journal, “The university is in receipt of the request for information from the U.S. Department of Education related to the Title VI complaint from StandWithUs. The university will fully participate in the department’s inquiry.”