Campus Reform | Jewish groups calls for Johns Hopkins to break silence on TA’s anti-Semitic posts

Jewish groups calls for Johns Hopkins to break silence on TA’s anti-Semitic posts

According to the groups, the university has not meaningfully dealt with the anti-Semitic tweets, which were posted months ago.

The groups said that the posts represented harassment toward 'those Jewish students for whom connection to Israel is a critical and deeply held component of their Jewish ancestral and ethnic identity.'

Johns Hopkins University is not seriously addressing a teaching assistant's anti-Semitic posts that indicated she may give Jewish students failing grades. 

That accusation comes from groups such as StandWithUs and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Both organizations published a letter to the prestigious university last week, pressing the school to take substantive action, which they claim hasn't occurred since the tweets posted in late 2020. 

Rachel Lerman, vice-chair and senior counsel at the Brandeis Center told Campus Reform that JHU has not taken steps to "eliminate the hostile environment" in this case.

"The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has stated that when discriminatory treatment occurs, a university must take 'prompt and effective steps' to 'eliminate the hostile environment' and 'prevent the harassment from recurring,'" Lerman said.

Lerman added that the university is "failing to live up to its obligations."

Campus Reform reported on the tweets in January, quoting the alleged tweets Rasha Anayah, the teaching assistant, “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.”

[RELATED: Johns Hopkins teaching assistant allegedly admits to lowering 'zionist' students' grades]

In a poll posted to her now-deleted Twitter account, the Anayah asked followers whether she ought to fail Zionist students. “Ethical dilemma: if you have to grade a Zionist students exam, do you still give them all their points even though they support your ethnic cleansing? like idk.”

After the results were overwhelmingly in favor of the “free palestine! fail them” option, she said that she agreed.

“We had an undergrad in lab who had been on birthright and had one of the street signs to tel aviv on her laptop,” she said in another post. “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.”

[RELATED: Students for Justice in Palestine calls for impeachment of pro-Israel Jewish student, backs down after lawyers get involved]

Representatives from StandWithUs and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law wrote a letter to Johns Hopkins administrators that encouraged them to address the tweets, which “constituted harassment of Jewish students who identify with the State of Israel, and created a hostile environment for these students.”

“Not only did she threaten to fail these students, she encouraged her audience to join her campaign of hatred by purporting to take a ‘poll’ in favor of carrying out her threat,” reads the letter. “Even if the TA’s threat were an empty one, and she did not actually fail or lower the grades of any of the students for whom she evidently holds such contempt (which has yet to be demonstrated), it constituted harassment of those Jewish students for whom connection to Israel is a critical and deeply held component of their Jewish ancestral and ethnic identity.”

[RELATED: Hundreds of Harvard students condemn Israel in statement that omits any mention of Hamas]

In accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the groups asked Johns Hopkins to “take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring.” 

“Public silence by the University will not rectify the situation,” adds the letter. “In order to eliminate the hostile environment and prevent the harassment from recurring, the University must, at a minimum, make clear that conduct such as that exhibited by the TA runs counter to the University’s values of mutual respect and inclusion and will not be tolerated.”

Lerman told Campus Reform, "John Hopkins has not taken these steps. Conducting a private investigation is a preliminary step, but it is not enough to end the harassment or eliminate the hostile environment." 

"Privacy laws don’t stand in the way—the University can and must make clear it will not tolerate conduct that encourages its graduate students to turn on undergraduates they are hired to teach or treat them in a discriminatory way," Lerman continued. "By refusing to make this clear, the University is failing to live up to its obligations." 

At the time of the original tweets in January, JHU Provost Sunil Kumar and interim Dean John Toscano told the Hillel chapter that they are investigating the incident, according to the JHU News-letter.

“We are aware of an incident of alleged antisemitism and potential abuse of authority in the discharge of academic responsibilities on our campus,” the university officials wrote. “Any link between grading and bias runs counter to our values and policies, and we are taking all necessary steps to ensure that does not occur.”

Editor's Note: Johns Hopkins University and StandWithUs responded to Campus Reform after publication. 

Andrew Green, vice president for communications at Johns Hopkins, said that "We take seriously any and all allegations related to academic integrity and discrimination, harassment, or other misconduct. As we have said publicly many times, Johns Hopkins unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism in all its forms."

"The investigation into this matter has concluded. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 prohibits us from disclosing the details or outcome, but we can provide assurance that we took the matter very seriously and that the safety of our community was maintained through the process," Green added. 

Additionally, in a statement provided to Campus Reform, Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder, said, “No student should wonder if they are being targeted for discrimination by faculty, staff, or other students because of their Jewish identity."

“Students who find themselves in this position are being deprived of an equal opportunity to participate in their university’s educational environment," Rothstein continued. "Johns Hopkins not only can do more but must do more to show that there is zero tolerance for antisemitism and bias against Jews on campus.”

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