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Letter to Johns Hopkins University Regarding Antisemitic Posts from Graduate Researcher and TA

December 3, 2020 Via Email: (rdaniels@jhu.edu; yarkony@jhu.edu) Ronald J. Daniels President The Johns Hopkins University 3400 N. Charles St., 242 Garland Hall Baltimore, Maryland 21218 David Yarkony, Ph.D. Chair and D. Mead Johnson Professor of Chemistry The Johns Hopkins University 3400 N. Charles St., Remsen 310 Baltimore, Maryland 21218 Dear President Daniels and Professor Yarkony, We write on behalf of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, divisions of StandWithUs, an international, non-profit education organization supporting Israel and combating antisemitism. We write to bring to your attention [name redacted], a graduate researcher and teaching assistant in Johns Hopkins University’s chemistry department. [Redacted] allegedly posted a series of racist,[1] antisemitic statements on a public Twitter account, including shockingly bigoted statements attacking Israelis and white people, and a poll asking followers if [redacted] should penalize “zionist students” with low grades due to [redacted] hatred of Israel. We believe this is a matter of urgency requiring your immediate attention because in a few weeks the semester will end and students will receive their grades. On November 15, 2020, [Redacted] apparently posted a Twitter poll stating: “ethical dilemma: if you have to grade a zionist students [sic] exam, do you still give them all their points even though they support your ethnic cleansing? like idk.” [Redacted] then provided response options, “yes [redacted]. be a good ta” and “free palestine! fail them.” See Exhibit A.



On November 20, 2020, [Redacted] doubled down, allegedly posting a series of tweets further emphasizing animosity towards Jewish and Israeli students on campus. In one tweet, [Redacted] expresses gratitude that [redacted] “didn’t get pinned with an israeli [sic] or some bitch white boy to have to share my knowledge with.” See Exhibit A. A follow-up tweet states that “we had an undergrad in lab who had been on birthright[2] and had one of the street signs to tel aviv [sic] on her laptop. 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.” See Exhibit A.


These expressions of hatred are more than just concerning—they are 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. Further, the sentiments expressed in these statements clearly satisfy the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Education, and is the definition of antisemitism executive department agencies are required to use when investigating potential antisemitism in Title VI actions.


To be clear, we believe that free speech and academic freedom are paramount constitutional values. If this was merely a case of a student expressing obnoxious opinions, we would not be writing to you. But the facts of this case raise a different concern: that an employee of the school has repeatedly expressed intent to use a position of authority to harm students on the basis of their race, religion, or national origin. Discrimination Policy


Johns Hopkins University’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures (“Policy and Procedures”) states (emphasis added):


The Johns Hopkins University is committed to equal opportunity and providing a safe and non-discriminatory educational and working environment for its students, trainees, faculty, staff, post-doctoral fellows, residents, and other members of the University community. To that end, the university seeks to provide community members with an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment on the basis of sex, gender, marital status, pregnancy, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, veteran status or other legally protected characteristic.


Section II of the Policy and Procedures spells out prohibited conduct and includes the following:


The University prohibits discrimination and harassment based on any protected characteristic, which includes sex, gender, marital status, pregnancy, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, veteran status or other legally protected characteristic.


The Policy and Procedures define discrimination in Section III to mean, “treating a community member or group less favorably than a similarly situated community member or group because they are a member of a ‘protected class.’” In other words, if [Redacted] has acted or were to act on a supposed impulse to penalize Jewish, Israeli or white students, these actions would constitute a flagrant violation of your discrimination policies because it would discriminate against students based on their religion, ethnicity, race and/or national origin.


We urge you to investigate this matter and, if any violations of university policy are discovered, use all means at your disposal to repair any past or potential harm to students. At a minimum, we ask for immediate and transparent oversight of [Redacted’s] grading this fall semester to ensure that no student suffers any harm based on [Redacted’s] expressed hatred and biases. Additionally, we urge your administration to investigate and ensure that no student has been harmed in the past by [Redacted’s] bigotry, to offer appropriate recompense to those students if any harm is uncovered, and to discipline [Redacted] if warranted. Likewise, we encourage you to require [Redacted] to apologize publicly for this reprehensible rhetoric and explain how [redacted] plans to regain trust with students in the campus community. Finally, we suggest your administration exercise your First Amendment rights to condemn antisemitism and send a strong signal that bigotry has no place on your campus, particularly in grading.


Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter. We look forward to hearing from you by December 15, 2020.


Sincerely,


Roz Rothstein

CEO and Co-Founder

StandWithUs


Yael Lerman

Director

StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department


Carly Gammill

Director

StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism


Click HERE for [Redacted]'s tweets.

[1] The original tweets and the entire twitter account “[redacted]” from which these hateful tweets seemingly originated have been deleted or made private, so it is no longer possible to see them. However, we obtained screenshots purportedly from [Redacted’s] twitter account prior to deletion, attached as “Exhibit A.” [2] Birthright in this context refers to Taglit-Birthright Israel, a non-profit educational organization that sponsors free ten-day heritage trips to Israel for young adults of Jewish heritage, aged 18-32.

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