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GWU Says an Investigation Cleared It of Anti-Semitism. Why Won't It Release the Report?

By: Alana Goodman | The Washington Free Beacon | March 30, 2023

George Washington University professor Lara Sheehi / Twitter

Professor Lara Sheehi tweeted: 'FUCK ZIONISM, ZIONISTS, AND SETTLER COLONIALISM.' That's OK by GWU.

George Washington University on Monday trumpeted the results of an investigation that allegedly cleared the university and Professor Lara Sheehi of anti-Semitism. But the school won't release the full report, penned by an outside law firm retained by the school, that it is claiming exonerates it.

The announcement comes in the wake of a civil rights complaint filed with the Department of Education arguing that Sheehi, whose Twitter feed is littered with claims like "Zionists are the most boldfaced assholes," created a hostile classroom environment for Jews and Israelis in her mandatory diversity course. GWU president Mark Wrighton said the law firm hired to investigate Sheehi's behavior, Crowell & Moring LLP, found "no evidence substantiating the allegations of discriminatory and retaliatory conduct."

The university's decision to bury the full report is eliciting blowback. StandWithUs, the anti-Semitism watchdog that in January filed the civil rights complaint against GWU on behalf of several students, is slamming the university for withholding the report.

"If the university wants its description of the results of the investigation to be taken seriously, it should release a full copy of the report, rather than the summarized 'findings' publicized by GW itself," said Roz Rothstein, cofounder and CEO of StandWithUs.

According to the university, there is "no evidence that [Sheehi's] discourse"—which included telling a Jewish student that it is "not your fault you were born in Israel," suggesting Zionism is racist, and alleging that Israelis use humanitarian work to whitewash their crimes—"crossed the line into anti-Semitic speech."

A spokeswoman for the school, Julia Metjian, told the Washington Free Beacon that the public will have to take George Washington University's word for it. "The confidential report has been carefully reviewed, and the summary of the findings the university released accurately represents what the university learned through the investigation conducted by Crowell & Moring," said the university. "In the interest of protecting the privacy of our students and faculty, the confidential report will not be released."

The school said that allegations about Sheehi's anti-Semitic statements were "largely inconsistent with the recording of the event or significantly decontextualized," but it did not say what context, if any, was missing.

The investigation was conducted by Crowell & Moring attorneys Laurel Pyke Malson and Sadina Montani, who have a background of representing universities and other employers against discrimination complaints, according to their online biographies. Malson says in her biography that her recent key representations include "Title IX litigation defending universities against claims brought by both complainants and respondents," while Montani's biography says she "represents employers in state and federal courts and before various administrative agencies, defending claims of race, sex, disability, and age discrimination."

StandWithUs is raising questions about some of the findings described by the university, including the assertion that none of the students interviewed by investigators remembered Sheehi being dismissive of anti-Semitism claims raised by Jewish students.

"This is patently untrue," Rothstein told the Free Beacon. She also rejected GWU's claim that Sheehi's anti-Israel Twitter posts were "only briefly visible to the public."

"In reality, [Sheehi's] Twitter feed, including her blatantly anti-Semitic rhetoric, was visible to the public for many years," Rothstein said. "It was only after StandWithUs filed its Title VI complaint that the virulently hostile and profane tweets were removed."

On Oct. 24, 2020, Sheehi posted: "FUCK ZIONISM, ZIONISTS AND SETTLER COLONIALISM using Palestinian lives as examples of their boundless cruelty and power."

In other posts, Sheehi advocated for throwing rocks at Israelis, celebrated attacks on Israelis during the Second Intifada, and denied that Hamas was a terrorist group.

"If you see this and STILL entertain for even a split second that Hamas is the terrorist entity, there is literally zero hope for you, your soul, or your general existence as an ethical human being in this world," she wrote on May 22, 2021. "There is no gray area here, I'm not sorry to report."

In August 2020, Sheehi described supporters of Israel as "the most boldfaced assholes" who "cry victim when you call them on their shit. Get fucked, you and your racist ass."

In October, she claimed that "Zionism is a form of fascist white supremacy."

In GWU's statement exonerating itself, the school said that it "understands how these tweets, viewed at face value, are offensive and hurtful to some" but that such comments are permitted under its social media rules.

"Although the tweets from what appears to be Dr. Sheehi's personal account do not violate GW's social media policy, the university strongly denounces the use of profane language directed at any group of people, including in private tweets," said the school.


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