George Washington University’s third-party investigation has exonerated a diversity course teacher of some Jewish students’ and a pro-Israel group’s accusations of antisemitism, the university announced Monday.
StandWithUs filed a complaint in January with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights regarding Lara Sheehi, an assistant professor of clinical psychology and co-author of the book Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Practicing Resistance in Palestine.
“The university engaged the law firm Crowell & Moring LLP to conduct a third-party investigation to thoroughly examine the allegations in this complaint,” GW said in a summary of the firm’s findings. The university hasn’t released the full findings.
“Crowell’s review was comprehensive,” the university said. “It included interviews with almost all of the students in the class, as well as program faculty and school administrators. It also included a review of a significant number of contemporaneous documents and communications.”
“Crowell found no evidence substantiating the allegations of discriminatory and retaliatory conduct alleged in the complaint,” GW said. “Many of the statements the complaint alleges were made by Dr. Sheehi were, according to those who heard them, either inaccurate or taken out of context and misrepresented.”
Part of StandWithUs’s complaint said that on Sept. 30, during the Jewish High Holidays, a guest lecturer whom Sheehi invited to campus “demonized Israel,” “noted that appropriate resistance includes throwing stones” and “lionized” a 13-year-old Palestinian who participated in the stabbing of a 13-year-old Jew.
The Cromwell review found such lecture allegations “are largely inconsistent with the recording of the event or significantly decontextualized,” the university said.
The review found that StandWithUs, “and a few of the students in the class, advocated for an expansive view of the definition of antisemitism, which, if accepted in the university environment, could infringe on free speech principles and academic freedom.”
The summary of findings only critiques Sheehi regarding her tweets.
“Although the tweets from what appears to be Dr. Sheehi’s personal account do not violate GW’s social media policy, the university strongly denounces the use of profane language directed at any group of people, including in private tweets,” the university said. “Crowell found, however, that the tweets were made in a private Twitter account that was only briefly visible to the public … While the university disapproves of the tone of the tweets, GW policies recognize the right of faculty to articulate their points of view consistent with the university’s strong commitment to academic freedom.”
The StandWithUs complaint, which redacted profanity, said Sheehi has tweeted the following: “Israelis are so f****ing racist,” “F*** Zionism, Zionists …” and “F*** every person who is not yet an anti-Zionist.”
Sheehi didn’t comment Monday afternoon. StandWithUs said the outcome of the complaint is still pending.