By: Dion J. Pierre | The Algemeiner | January 4, 2024
George Washington University psychology professor Lara Sheehi, who was accused of verbally abusing and discriminating against her Jewish graduate students, has left the school and accepted a job at an institution based in Qatar, according to a correspondence obtained by The Algemeiner.
“I am writing to let you know that I have been offered a job at another university and I have made the difficult decision not to return to GW at the end of this year,” Sheehi wrote in an email sent to members of the university’s Professional Psychology Program. “As you can imagine, while this is an aligned professional and personal choice, I have mixed emotions, especially as GW has been my professional home since I was a graduate student.”
Sheehi added that she will “miss” her students, without mentioning that she was accused of mistreating several based on their ethnic and religious background. She is now employed as an assistant professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, a school based in the capital of Qatar, which hosts leaders of Hamas and, together with Iran and Turkey, has provided a significant portion of the Palestinian terrorist group’s budget.
Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, Sheehi has shared posts on social media describing Hamas terrorists as “martyrs” and endorsing their “armed resistance.” However, the academic was embroiled in controversy long before the current Israel-Hamas and surge in antisemitism on US college campuses.
In Jan. 2023, StandWithUs, an educational nonprofit, filed a civil rights complaint alleging that Sheehi, who taught a mandatory diversity course, invited an antisemitic speaker to address her class, launched a smear campaign against Jewish students, and later filed disciplinary charges against them in retaliation for their accusing her of antisemitism.
According to the complaint, Sheehi expressed contempt for Jews on the first day of class, when, in Aug. 2022, she asked every student to share information about their backgrounds and cultures. Replying to a student who revealed that she was Israeli, Sheehi said, “It’s not your fault you were born in Israel.” The students claimed they made several attempts to persuade the university to correct Sheehi’s behavior or arrange an alternative option for fulfilling the requirements of her course. Each time, StandWithUs alleged, administrators said nothing could be done.
Later, the complaint added, Sheehi spread rumors that the students were “combative” racists, and filed misconduct charges against them. One student told The Algemeiner at the time that she never learned what university policies Sheehi accused her and her classmates of violating.
“She turned the faculty against the Jewish students by spreading lies about us and our conduct, she disparaged us in front of our classmates, calling us Islamophobes,” said the student, who elected to speak anonymously for fear of additional retaliation. “She smeared our name in a community where success as a therapist really depends on relationships with our faculty supervisors and our colleagues. The disciplinary proceedings effectively silenced us, making it clear that you can’t be a Jew and you can’t speak up about antisemitism safely in this program.”
In response to a request for comment for this story, George Washington University just said it can confirm that Sheehi is no longer at the university, without addressing the accusations against her.
Some observers argued Sheehi’s career change is indicative of a larger problem among US universities.
“Professor Lara Sheehi’s departure from The George Washington University to join the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies full time, in a country known to host Hamas leaders and enable their terrorist activities, demonstrates the rot of higher education in America today,” the Israel on Campus Coalition told The Algemeiner. “The irony of Sheehi, who mistreated her Jewish students and has been a Hamas apologist, teaching in a city that is a significant contributor to Hamas’ terrorist activities is alarming. At the same time, GW is better off for Sheehi leaving, and this demonstrates that antisemitic professors on campus should continue to pay a price for endorsing and enabling hate against Jewish students.”
The allegations against Sheehi sent a seismic shock across the academic community, and a month after they became public over 500 academics and mental health professionals issued a letter urging the university to relieve Sheehi of her teaching duties.
Sheehi adamantly denied the students’ allegations, arguing in an essay published in CounterPunch on Feb. 3 that she was “targeted specifically because I am an Arab woman whose scholarship and activism advocates for Palestinians and, in the process, critiques Israeli settler-colonial apartheid.” Leehi also accused George Washington University of lacking “moral fibre” and having “colluded” with StandWithUs because it opened a third-party investigation into the students’ claims. She added that analyzing her X/Twitter account for evidence of her alleged antisemitism was ““civilizational and sexist discourse,” drawing from language that is popular among extreme left-wing academics.
That April, the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) opened an investigation into George Washington University to determine whether administrators refused to stop Sheehi’s alleged conduct. Weeks earlier, the school said there was no evidence to substantiate her students’ claims, citing an independent investigation it paid Crowell & Morning, a law firm based in Washington, DC, to conduct.
The government’s investigation into the university’s role in the events that took place during Sheehi’s tenure at the school is ongoing.
The Doha Institute for Graduate Studies did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
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