The George Washington University was accused by the nonprofit StandWithUs of providing a pervasive, hostile, and discriminatory environment for Jewish and Israeli students in a complaint filed with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Right on Thursday.
StandWithUs claimed the university violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
The program in question is the university’s Professional Psychology Program, whose facilitator of the program’s mandatory diversity course prof. Lara Sheehi was accused by StandWithUs of denying Jewish and Israeli students “the right to an equal educational opportunity.”
The complaint alleges that Israeli and Jewish students who came forward about their experience were punished for speaking out, with the letter claiming Sheehi slandered students’ reputations to other faculty members and launched excessive and irregular disciplinary procedures against them.
The complaint further claims that Sheehi invited a guest lecturer who invoked antisemitic tropes about Jews being dishonest and using their influence for nefarious purposes. The guest speaker, who was identified as Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian by the Jewish Journal, “expressed support for violence against Israeli civilians,” as per the complaint.
As written in the complaint, “when the students raised concerns about the antisemitic harassment they were experiencing, Sheehi denied that what the students had experienced was antisemitism and distorted the Jewish students’ comments to accuse the Jewish students of attacking other identity groups.
Sheehi has been writing in support of the Palestinian cause for many years, according to her academia.org page, which serves as an open repository of free-to-read academic articles. These include: “The will to Live in Palestine (2021),” “Psychotherapeutic Commons in Liberated Palestine (2021),” “Enactments of otherness and searching for a third space in the Palestine-Israel matrix (2016)” and “The settlers’ town is strongly built: Fanon in Palestine (2020).”
Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs CEO and co-founder, noted that “a professor singling out and targeting Jewish and Israeli students for adverse treatment because of their identity is textbook antisemitic discriminatory conduct.”
StopAntisemitism named Lara Sheehi as their current ‘Antisemite of the Week’, encouraging their audience to reach out to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to voice their concerns about the ongoing antisemitic climate at GW.
“In our 2022 Antisemitism on US College & University Campuses Report, GW was rated a ‘D’ with many Jewish students stating GW administrators do not take their safety seriously and often do not feel comfortable sharing their Jewish identity with others due to the climate on campus,” Executive Director of StopAntisemitism Liora Rez told the Jerusalem Post. “George Washington University is miserably failing its Jewish students and it is a relief to see legal action being taken. Jewish students deserve an environment free of anti-Jewish bias to learn and flourish; with Jew-hating professors like Lara Sheehi and clubs like SJP being allowed to spread their bigotry and cause havoc on campuses nationwide, this is nearly impossible to achieve.”