George Washington University says it has opened an investigation into whether a psychology professor displayed antisemitic behavior in her interactions with Jewish and Israeli students, in the latest row over the state of Jewish life at the university in Washington, D.C.
The investigation was prompted by a federal complaint filed by the pro-Israel watchdog group StandWithUs, which quoted graduate psychology students alleging that they had been targeted last fall by their professor due to “their Jewish and Israeli identities.”
The group’s complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office, quotes the professor, Lara Sheehi, as having told an Israeli student on the first day, “It’s not your fault you were born in Israel.” It goes on to allege that Jewish students felt targeted by a guest speaker Sheehi had brought into class, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, for comments she made advocating throwing stones at Israelis as a form of resistance. When students brought their concerns to Sheehi, the complaint alleges, she accused them of Islamophobia.
Subsequent meetings with higher-ups at the university did not yield satisfactory results, the complaint said.
In a statement, GWU President Mark Wrighton said the university would be opening “an investigation by a third party” into the complaint’s “claims of discrimination and retaliation against unnamed students in a GW course.” A GWU spokesperson previously told the Forward that the university “strongly condemns antisemitism and hatred” and “also recognizes and supports academic freedom.”