Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

Office for Civil Rights to investigate antisemitism, discrimination allegations in psychology course

File Photo by Donna Armstrong

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is launching an investigation into allegations of antisemitism in a psychology course, just two weeks after a GW-hired law firm announced it found “no evidence” of discrimination in the course.

University spokesperson Julia Metjian said GW has a “request for information” from the Department of Education in relation to the Title VI complaint the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs filed with the Office for Civil Rights in January. The investigation follows interim University President Mark Wrighton’s announcement late last month that Crowell & Moring, the law firm GW hired to conduct an investigation into the Title VI complaint, found many of StandWithUs’ discrimination allegations against some Jewish and Israeli students in the class to be “inaccurate” and “decontextualized.”

“The University will fully participate in the department’s inquiry,” Metjian said in an email.

The Office for Civil Rights did not immediately return a request for comment.

StandWithUs alleged in its January complaint that Lara Sheehi, an assistant professor of clinical psychology, created a “hostile environment” for some Jewish and Israeli students in the Professional Psychology Program’s Diversity I course in the fall. StandWithUs also claimed faculty and administrators “retaliated” with “disciplinary proceedings” against students who complained about Sheehi.

Sheehi responded to StandWithUs’ allegations in an article for left-leaning media outlet CounterPunch in February, disputing StandWithUs’ accusations levied in the Title VI complaint. She said StandWithUs used “racist, Anti-Arab and Anti-Palestinian tropes” to defame her. She added that she received death threats after StandWithUs released its complaint in January.

More than 2,000 students, faculty, alumni and advocates – including political activist Angela Davis – signed more than half a dozen statements decrying StandWithUs’ allegations and supporting Sheehi throughout January and February.

Sheehi did not immediately return a request for comment.

Roz Rothstein, the CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, said in a press release Tuesday that she and other members of StandWithUs are “pleased” with the Office for Civil Rights’ decision to investigate the organization’s allegations in a “thorough and unbiased manner.”

“While professors may enjoy the right to spew wrongheaded and even hateful ideologies in some circumstances, they do not have the right to subject students to discriminatory conduct based on those views,” Rothstein said in the release. “University administrators have an affirmative obligation to respond adequately when students report allegations of such misconduct.”

Following officials’ release of the summary of Crowell & Moring’s investigation last month, Rothstein said in a statement to The Hatchet that StandWithUs wants officials to release the full report from the investigation rather than a summary. She alleged that officials’ summary of the investigation exhibited a “blatant whitewashing” of the alleged discrimination Jewish and Israeli students faced in Sheehi’s course.

“Unsurprisingly, the published ‘findings’ of this investigation purported to exonerate GW and the professor, concluding that no antisemitism occurred,” StandWithUs’ Tuesday press release states.

Crowell & Moring investigators found the remediation process that officials issued for students in Sheehi’s course was not disciplinary but initiated to “address a deficiency” that students had in a subject matter, according to a summary of the investigators’ findings.

Sheehi said the Crowell & Moring investigation’s findings exhibit the “dangerous ramifications” of the antisemitism allegations StandWithUs made against her as an Arab woman, clinician and scholar, according to a release from the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee – an organization that decided in January to defend Sheehi against the complaint.

“I am hopeful that these findings will send a clear message to anyone who feels scared or intimidated by external political groups whose explicit aims are to harass and silence us,” Sheehi said in the release.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet