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Columbia Officials Admit Protest Rules ‘Don’t Work,’ Mock Other Administrators in New Texts

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By: Aaron Sibarium

Top Columbia University officials conceded in private that their rules for managing student protests “don’t work,” according to new text messages released this week by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, raising questions about the school’s commitment to keeping order on campus.

The messages, sent during a May 31 panel on Jewish life, reference the cards that Columbia administrators, or “delegates,” have been handing out to protesters since last year in an effort to break up unauthorized gatherings. The cards instruct recipients to show their student IDs and notify them of possible sanctions, including a semester’s suspension, if they don’t pack up and leave.

But when a cochair of Columbia’s anti-Semitism committee, David Schizer, told the panel that he’d “like to see” this tactic used more aggressively, officials in the audience dismissed the cards as a paper tiger.

“The delegate cards don’t work,” Matthew Patashnick, Columbia’s associate dean for student and family support, wrote in a message to Cristen Kromm, the dean of undergraduate student life, and Susan Chang-Kim, the vice dean and chief administrative officer. His text earned a “like” reaction from Kromm, who in later messages used vomit emojis to refer to a Columbia rabbi’s op-ed and suggested that allegations of anti-Semitism were driven by “$$$$.”

Patashnick and Kromm did not respond to requests for comment. Columbia spokeswoman Samantha Slater declined to comment.

The messages indicate that some of Columbia’s top officials believed that their disciplinary policies were insufficient to deter the disruptive protests that consumed campus in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks, including the weeks-long encampment that led to the occupation of a major building, Hamilton Hall, in early May.

The university first distributed delegate cards last November when over 50 students staged a sit-in at Columbia’s School of Social Work. It distributed the cards again in April after protesters took over the main campus lawn, called to “burn Tel Aviv to the ground,” and drew outside agitators to the university’s gates, which were eventually closed to protect students.

Columbia president Minouche Shafik nonetheless held off issuing suspensions for weeks as she attempted to negotiate with the encampment. A decisive crackdown did not come until May 1, after students stormed Hamilton Hall and briefly trapped a janitor inside.

Those events formed the backdrop for the May 31 panel, held during the university’s alumni weekend, which was attended by Josef Sorett, the dean of Columbia College, along with Patashnick, Kromm, and Chang-Kim. The officials spent much of the panel exchanging derogatory text messages about the event, some of which were photographed by an audience member and first published by the Washington Free Beacon.

Patashnick, Kromm, and Chang-Kim were placed on leave following the Free Beacon report. Sorett, who has remained in his post, issued a half-hearted apology for the messages but did not acknowledge his role in them.

“LMAO,” Sorett texted Chang-Kim after the director of Columbia Hillel, Brian Cohen, said his “soul has been broken” by the post-Oct. 7 protests.

The new tranche of texts underscores that dismissive attitude and offers a window into how the administrators view not just Jewish students but also their own colleagues. In one exchange, which has not been previously reported, Kromm referred to Joseph Defraine Greenwell, Columbia’s senior vice president for student affairs, as a “clown” and said Greenwell is “too busy writing a white paper on the value of student affairs.”

“Trying to articulate his value here,” Kromm added.

“Is it an index card?” Patashnick replied.

Greenwell did not respond to a request for comment.

Other messages suggest a contempt for Jewish leaders and an ignorance of the accommodations offered to other minority groups. After asserting that Cohen was exploiting the moment’s “fundraising potential,” Patashnick—who has since changed his Instagram profile picture to a photo of him standing in front of Jerusalem’s Israel Museum—predicted that Jewish students would “have their own dorm soon.”

In fact, Jews are one of the only groups at Columbia that do not have their own dorm. The university provides separate houses for black, “Latinx,” indigenous, and Muslim students who are “interested in living among students with common identities,” according to Columbia’s housing website, which describes the dorms as “Special Interest Communities.” Another dorm, Q House, is “dedicated to providing a safe living environment for LGBTQ students and their allies.”

“Comes from such a place of privilege,” Chang-Kim texted the group after Cohen said that many Jews felt more comfortable in the Kraft Center for Jewish Life than in their own dormitories.

“Yup,” replied Kromm. “Blind to the idea that non-Israel supporting Jews have no space to come together.”


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