Messages from President Shafik and Provost Olinto

July 08, 2024

A Message From President Shafik

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

I am writing today to update our campus community on the actions the University is taking following an incident in which senior administrators in Columbia College engaged in very troubling text message exchanges during a reunion weekend event entitled “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present, and Future.” 

This incident revealed behavior and sentiments that were not only unprofessional, but also, disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes. Whether intended as such or not, these sentiments are unacceptable and deeply upsetting, conveying a lack of seriousness about the concerns and the experiences of members of our Jewish community that is antithetical to our university’s values and the standards we must uphold in our community.

We are taking action that holds those involved in this incident accountable. Provost Angela Olinto details the next steps on this path in her communication below. Dean Josef Sorett is also writing directly to the Columbia College community to address his role in this incident, apologize, and describe the steps he will be taking to rebuild trust and accountability.

More broadly, we will launch a vigorous program of antisemitism and antidiscrimination training for faculty and staff this fall, with related training for students under the auspices of University Life.

While this disturbing incident has presented us challenges as a community, Columbia’s leadership team recognizes this as an important moment to implement changes that will build a stronger institution as a result. I know that you all share this commitment. 

Minouche Shafik
President, Columbia University in the City of New York

A Message From Provost Olinto

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

I share President Shafik’s dismay at the incident involving Columbia College administrators during reunion weekend. Their conduct was wrong and contrary to the mission and values of our institution. It revealed, at best, an ignorance of the history of antisemitism. 

We are taking a series of actions to hold those involved in the incident accountable while also moving forward with initiatives to build a stronger foundation for our broader community.

  • The three staff members involved have been permanently removed from their positions at Columbia College and remain on leave at this time. Experienced staff in Columbia College and Columbia Engineering, as well as other University partners, will step up to support the College’s operations in the near term while efforts proceed to rebuild the administrative and student life infrastructure for the future.  
  • Dean Sorett will be writing to the Columbia College community separately. He has apologized and taken full responsibility, committing to the work and collaboration necessary to heal the community and learn from this moment, and make sure nothing like this ever happens again. He has also reached out to leaders of our Jewish community for their partnership. Along with other university leaders, I will play an active role alongside Dean Sorett as he takes immediate steps to rebuild and sustain a culture within the leadership of Columbia College that prizes dialogue, learning, empathy, respect, and inclusion. He will also have the support and partnership of the deans with whom he works closely to shape and deliver our undergraduate academic programs. President Shafik and I expect the College administration to deliver concrete change in combating antisemitism and discrimination and creating a fully inclusive environment.

Dean Sorett and I will work together to mend relationships, repair trust, and rebuild accountability. This incident has confirmed yet again how much we must do together to ensure our community is one in which all members are treated with dignity, respect and empathy, as well as one that effectively addresses antisemitism alongside all other forms of discrimination.

  • To this end, in consultation with campus leaders and outside experts, my office will launch new antidiscrimination training that includes antisemitism training for faculty and staff this fall. University Life is also developing related training for students. But experience shows that training is only one part of culture change. We are using these months to establish both programming — talks, workshops, retreats — and sustained engagement with Jewish community leaders.  The urgent aim is to build an inclusive and welcoming environment for every member of our community. We will be sharing details about this work throughout the summer.

I am eager to work closely with Columbia College’s leaders, leaders of our Jewish community, and partners across the University as we undertake this deeply important part of our mission.


Angela V. Olinto
Provost, Columbia University in the City of New York