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Controversial George Washington University Professor Resigns Following Antisemitic Discrimination

A psychology professor accused of discriminating against Jewish and Israeli students left the University amid an ongoing federal investigation into her alleged misconduct.

Lara Sheehi, an assistant professor of clinical psychology, left GW to teach at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar. Her departure from the University comes nine months after The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation into alleged discrimination in a psychology course she taught in Fall 2022.

The Algemeiner Journal, a New York-based paper that covers Jewish and Israeli issues, first reported the news Thursday.

University spokesperson Julia Metjian confirmed that Sheehi no longer works at GW but declined to comment on how her departure will affect the ongoing investigation against Sheehi and the University.

“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 said in an email sent to the Professional Psychology Program faculty that was obtained by the Algemeiner Journal.

Sheehi could not be reached for comment. The Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar did not immediately return a request for comment.

Sheehi taught at GW since 2016 and received her doctorate of psychology from the University in 2010, according to her LinkedIn. She did not teach any classes in the Spring 2023 or Fall 2023 semesters and was not scheduled to teach any this spring, according to the schedule of classes. The final classes she taught at GW were in Fall 2022 — Third Year Psychotherapy and Diversity I.

StandWithUs, a Jewish and pro-Israel advocacy organization, filed a Title VI complaint with The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in January 2023, accusing Sheehi of antisemitic behavior toward Jewish and Israeli students in the Fall 2022 Diversity I, a graduate-level psychology course. During the course, students took issue with some of her statements and lectures, including a time she allegedly told an Israeli student, “It’s not your fault you were born in Israel,” and for reportedly not featuring class materials covering antisemitism. The complaint states that University faculty and administrators “retaliated” with “disciplinary proceedings” against students who spoke up about the “hostile environment” Sheehi created in her classroom for Jewish and Israeli students.

Sheehi responded to the allegations in February 2023 in an article published in the liberal-leaning magazine CounterPunch, arguing the complaint is a “misrepresentation” of her conduct and “targets” her for being an Arab woman advocating for Palestinians. More than 2,000 students, alumni, faculty and advocates signed more than half a dozen statements supporting Sheehi between January and February 2023.

GW officials launched a third-party investigation into the Title VI complaint using GW-hired investigators from the Crowell & Moring law firm and found “no evidence” of discriminatory conduct, according to an email former interim University President Mark Wrighton sent to community members in March 2023. Wrighton did not release the full report online but said the summary “faithfully represents” the contents of the investigation.

In April 2023, two weeks after officials released Crowell & Moring’s findings that many of the allegations of antisemitism were “inaccurate” and “decontextualized,” The Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation into the claims in the StandWithUs complaint. The Office for Civil Rights did not immediately return a request for comment on the status of the investigation.

Following the complaint, Sheehi has become a widely cited incident of antisemitism at GW, which has turned more acute since the Israel-Hamas war began.

Seven GW alumni serving in the House of Representatives sent a letter to University President Ellen Granberg in October after members of Students for Justice in Palestine projected anti-Israel statements onto Gelman Library, calling for officials to take “immediate action” to protect Jewish students and referencing the StandWithUs complaint against Sheehi as an example of antisemitism at the University. A November letter sent to Granberg and signed by over 1,000 alumni following the projections called on the University to formulate a “clear plan” for combating antisemitism and listed the allegations against Sheehi as an example of University officials not giving adequate attention to previous incidents.