In a joint email from Columbia President Minouche Shafik and Provost Angela Olinto outlined the series of actions taken following the release of private text exchanges between Columbia deans. Currently, three staff members have been permanently removed from their positions while Dean Sorett maintains his role.

Three Columbia deans, Cristen Kromm, Matthew Patashnick, and Susan Chang-Kim, have been removed from their roles. The information was sent to students via email on Monday, July 8.  The removals come after the deans were placed on administrative leave after the release of private text messages. President Shafik shared an update on the “very troubling text message exchanges” that occurred between “staff members” during Reunion Weekend in the first communication to students following the administrative leave then removal of the Columbia deans

Shafik claimed the incident revealed “unprofessional” behavior and also “disturbingly touched on antisemitic tropes” whether “intended as such or not.” While three Columbia deans have been placed on permanent leave, the fourth individual involved in the text exchange, Josef Sorett, maintains his position as Dean of Columbia College.

Sorett is the subject of a petition calling for his removal that has garnered over 1000 signatures from the Columbia community, including parents and prospective students. 

In the same email, Provost Angela Olinto outlined next steps, including new anti-discrimination trainings for faculty, staff, and students. She opened, stating she shared Shafik’s dismay, and faculty involved in the text exchange’s“ conduct was wrong and contrary to the mission and values” of Columbia and “revealed, at best, an ignorance of the history of antisemitism.”

This training, created by Columbia’s Task Force on Antisemitism, was exclusively outlined in June by Israeli newspaper Haaretz and included equating examples of anti-Zionism with possible antisemitism. However, Olinto’s announcement of the training is the first official communication the Columbia community has received. Olinto states that the “training is only one part of culture change” and that the “urgent aim is to build an inclusive and welcoming environment for every member of our community.”

Sorett also shared his own email to Columbia College students. In his email, he apologized for the text messages, stating that while not intending to, the exchanges may “call to mind some antisemtitic tropes.”

He apologized for his participation in the text exchanges and that these exchanges occurred in a community he leads. Nonetheless he remains “resolute in [his] duties to the job at hand: The work of healing and repair and rebuilding of trust and accountability.”

Email sent from the Office of the President to students at 10:35 am:

 Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am writing today to update our campus community on the actions the University is taking following an incident in which senior administrators in Columbia College engaged in very troubling text message exchanges during a Reunion Weekend event entitled “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present, and Future.”

This incident revealed behavior and sentiments that were not only unprofessional, but also, disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes. Whether intended as such or not, these sentiments are unacceptable and deeply upsetting, conveying a lack of seriousness about the concerns and the experiences of members of our Jewish community that is antithetical to our University’s values and the standards we must uphold in our community.

We are taking action that holds those involved in this incident accountable. Provost Angela Olinto details the next steps on this path in her communication below. Dean Josef Sorett is also writing directly to the Columbia College community to address his role in this incident, apologize, and describe the steps he will be taking to rebuild trust and accountability.

More broadly, we will launch a vigorous program of antisemitism and antidiscrimination training for faculty and staff this fall, with related training for students under the auspices of University Life.

While this disturbing incident has presented us challenges as a community, Columbia’s leadership team recognizes this as an important moment to implement changes that will build a stronger institution as a result. I know that you all share this commitment.


Minouche Shafik

President, Columbia University in the City of New York

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I share President Shafik’s dismay at the incident involving Columbia College administrators during Reunion Weekend. Their conduct was wrong and contrary to the mission and values of our institution. It revealed, at best, an ignorance of the history of antisemitism.

We are taking a series of actions to hold those involved in the incident accountable while also moving forward with initiatives to build a stronger foundation for our broader community.

  • The three staff members involved have been permanently removed from their positions at Columbia College and remain on leave at this time. Experienced staff in Columbia College and Columbia Engineering, as well as other University partners, will step up to support the College’s operations in the near term while efforts proceed to rebuild the administrative and student life infrastructure for the future.
  • Dean Sorett will be writing to the Columbia College community separately. He has apologized and taken full responsibility, committing to the work and collaboration necessary to heal the community and learn from this moment, and make sure nothing like this ever happens again. He has also reached out to leaders of our Jewish community for their partnership. Along with other University leaders, I will play an active role alongside Dean Sorett as he takes immediate steps to rebuild and sustain a culture within the leadership of Columbia College that prizes dialogue, learning, empathy, respect, and inclusion. He will also have the support and partnership of the deans with whom he works closely to shape and deliver our undergraduate academic programs. President Shafik and I expect the College administration to deliver concrete change in combating antisemitism and discrimination and creating a fully inclusive environment.

Dean Sorett and I will work together to mend relationships, repair trust, and rebuild accountability. This incident has confirmed yet again how much we must do together to ensure our community is one in which all members are treated with dignity, respect, and empathy, as well as one that effectively addresses antisemitism alongside all other forms of discrimination.

  • To this end, in consultation with campus leaders and outside experts, my office will launch new antidiscrimination training that includes antisemitism training for faculty and staff this fall. University Life is also developing related training for students. But experience shows that training is only one part of culture change. We are using these months to establish both programming — talks, workshops, retreats — and sustained engagement with Jewish community leaders. The urgent aim is to build an inclusive and welcoming environment for every member of our community. We will be sharing details about this work throughout the summer.

I am eager to work closely with Columbia College’s leaders, leaders of our Jewish community, and partners across the University as we undertake this deeply important part of our mission.


Angela V. Olinto

Provost, Columbia University in the City of New York

Email sent from Dean Josef Sorett to students at 10:31 am:

Dear Columbia College Students,

While I do not typically write to you at this time, during the summer months, I am reaching out now to update you on the actions that we are taking following an incident related to a set of text messages exchanged during a reunion weekend panel discussion entitled “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present, and Future” this past May. 

As the leader of Columbia College, I am responsible for setting the culture and tone of the staff of the College. The entire incident was contrary to the values of the University. While not intended as such, some of the text messages exchanged may call to mind antisemitic tropes. Any language that demeans members of our community, or divides us from one another, is simply unacceptable. I am deeply sorry that this happened in a community that I lead and that I was part of any of the exchanges, and I pledge to spearhead the change we need to ensure this never happens again.

I continue to learn from this experience and understand the impact that my texts, as well as those between my staff, have had on our community. The loss of trust and the pain this incident has caused, particularly to the Jewish members of our community, must be fully repaired. I also recognize that some of the texts suggest a seeming dismissiveness with regards to the impact that the global rise of antisemitism has had on Columbia’s campus. I am dedicated to leading the College community to higher standards of professionalism, and to rebuilding trust as we move forward in providing the best undergraduate experience for our students and living up to the values of this great institution. I have reached out to all individuals on the panel to apologize. I also have a deep appreciation for the important contributions that Jewish students, faculty, alumni and administrators have made to Columbia. The College’s embrace of a diversity of viewpoints, identities and experiences is longstanding and unequivocal, and that fully extends to all Jewish students. Anything else would be at odds with Columbia’s history and our abiding mission.

As Provost Olinto stated, the three staff members involved in the text exchanges have been permanently removed from their positions at Columbia College and remain on leave at this time. We will get to work on rebuilding our administrative and student life infrastructure for the future.

I am resolute in my duties to the job at hand: The work of healing and repair and rebuilding of trust and accountability. All College personnel will be participating wholeheartedly in the University’s new antisemitism and antidiscrimination training for every staff and faculty member — as noted in President Shafik’s message — as our community confronts antisemitism and all forms of discrimination and hate. We will also engage in workplace culture training for our leadership and create more sustaining partnerships with Jewish leaders and other members of our communities. I will work closely with Provost Olinto and others to ensure that we are successful in this important work and will hold myself accountable for its success.

This incident has confirmed yet again how much we must do together both to understand and effectively address issues of difference and discrimination, including antisemitism. I am committed to a College in which all members are treated with dignity and respect. We must and will do better, on behalf of the entire Columbia community.

As a scholar of religion and race, my work has long been defined in relationship to communities struggling to think and talk together across all kinds of difference, in service to the whole. I continue to see my work as dean in this vein, and as anchored in a vision of lifelong learning and human flourishing.

With respect,

Josef Sorett

Dean of Columbia College

Vice President for Undergraduate Education

Alma Mater via Bwog Archives