500 Academics and Mental Health Professionals Call for Removal of Professor Accused of Antisemitism
by Dion J. Pierre
Over five hundred academics and mental health professionals have issued a letter urging George Washington University (GWU) to remove “decolonial” clinical psychology professor Lara Sheehi from teaching duties for the duration of an investigation of allegations that she discriminated against Jewish students and attempted to sabotage their careers.
The allegations against Leehi were first made public last month in a civil rights complaint by StandWithUs, a nonprofit that fights antisemitism and promotes education about Israel. According to the complaint, Sheehi, who teaches a mandatory diversity course at GWU, hosted an antisemitic speaker, launched a smear campaign against Jewish students, and filed disciplinary charges against them in retaliation for their accusing her of antisemitism.
“We call upon GWU to relieve Dr. Sheehi of teaching roles in required courses until this matter is adjudicated,” said the letter, which lists Daniel Burston of Duquesne University, Cary Nelson of University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, psychiatrist David. A Sasso, and psychologist Ilene Serline as its principal authors. “In light of the online material available, if the allegations against Dr. Sheehi are corroborated in part or in whole, this may also cast doubt upon her suitability to train psychotherapists in general.”
Professor Sheehi has denied that the students’ allegations, arguing in an essay published in CounterPunch on Feb. 3 that she is being “targeted specifically because I am an Arab woman whose scholarship and activism advocates for Palestinians and, in the process, critiques Israeli settler-colonial apartheid.” Leehi also accused George Washington University of lacking “moral fibre” and having “colluded” with StandWithUs and because it opened a third-party investigation of the students’ claims. She added that analyzing her Twitter account for evidence of her alleged antisemitism is “civilizational and sexist discourse.”
Lawmakers have also expressed concern about Sheehi’s alleged behavior.
On Friday, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), citing the complaint, wrote a letter to US Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona asking for the issuance of long promised new Title VI guidance that would protect Jewish and Zionist students from discrimination. In December, the Biden administration delayed issuing the regulations, which were first proposed in a directive by President Trump in response to rising anti-Zionist discrimination on college campuses and would apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism to civil rights investigations.
The proposed guidance will not be instituted until at least December 2023, according to a copy of the proposed rule on the website of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
“I have long been a strong proponent of taking all measures necessary to protect students against hate, discrimination, and bigotry — especially Jewish students who face a barrage of antisemitism on their college campuses,” Gottheimer wrote. “It is critical that these students not be singled out or made to feel unwelcome, and that universities uphold our values. After a year with historic levels of antisemitism, I ask the department to prioritize the rule making process for Title VI.”
“Professor Sheehi had — and still has — an opportunity to approach this situation by showing a respectful and appropriate concern for her Jewish students,” StandWithUs said on Feb. 10 in response to Sheehi’s essay. “Unfortunately, the shamefully vitriolic and self-justifying remarks she posted suggest no such humility will be forthcoming. Her diatribe makes it even more important that GW and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into her conduct in the classroom.”