I have been following from afar a debate about the alleged behavior of Professor Lara Sheehy, who teaches a mandatory DEI class to psychology grad students at George Washington University. The main allegations are his denigration, bullying and otherwise mistreatment of Israeli, Jewish and/or pro-Israel students. Professors who should know better claim he is being targeted for his pro-Palestinian views. The allegations suggest otherwise, and also raise the question of why a professor would bring his views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to a psychology DEI class to begin with… Note that even those of us, like blogfather Eugene and myself, who are generally hostile based on rhetoric Sufficiently skeptical of environmental law, faculty draw a clear line at hostile rhetoric that uniquely targets specific students.
Anyway, Scholars for Middle East Peace put out an open letter on this debate, and I thought it was pretty good (although you might expect I have a few quibbles, so I’m not taking the entire letter as my own perspective), so I am sharing it.
Open letter to George Washington University (GWU) on allegations of anti-Semitism
We, the undersigned, are mental health clinicians and educators, practitioners of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, and scholars of antisemitism from various disciplines. We are a diverse group with people from the political left, right and centre; Jews and non-Jews, and there are different opinions about Judaism.
We are deeply concerned about the allegations against Dr. Lara Sheehy, former secretary of the Society for Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychology, Chair of the Academy of Teachers of Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychology (Division 39 of the American Psychological Association) and the American Psychoanalytic Association. Dr. Sheehy teaches a required diversity course for graduate students in psychology at George Washington University. A formal complaint filed by several of his Jewish and Israeli students describes a series of failures by him and the university to treat all students equally and with respect. (We urge the reader to review StandWithU’s complaint in its entirety to understand the extent of the allegations.) These allegations are troubling and, if true, reveal a serious abuse of the trust traditionally placed in educators and constitute a clear violation of Title VI, which govt. Prohibits discrimination based on national origin and other characteristics in institutions receiving support.
Since the allegation was published, several letters in defense of Dr. Sheehy have circulated and received widespread support, claiming that concerns about his teaching and his online presence – which is filled with obscenities and hate speech against anti-Semitism and Israelis – are the result. Right-Wing Zionist Conspiracy. It is shocking to reflect that those signatories signed letters that did not even consider the possibility that the students’ allegations were true and did not demand their respectful consideration. What if the students were not Jewish or Israeli? A scandal is when black students, Muslim students, or LGBT students—a group of students from other backgrounds—complain that their professor excluded and shamed them in a required course based on their religion, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation. imagine on diversity. Calls for the resignation or removal of such a professor would be swift and serious. And while these accusations remain today, Dr. Sheehy’s tweets and online interviews with Israelis make the accusations seem plausible enough to merit careful scrutiny. (Her deleted Twitter account included statements such as the following: “Israelis are so racist,” “Zionists are inseparable,” “You can’t be a Zionist and a feminist” “F*** Judaism, Zionists…” “F** ** Every person who is not yet anti-Zionist,” and “Zionists are their own ****”.)
Therefore, forcing Jewish and Israeli students to take courses with Dr. Sheehy while these allegations are being investigated is highly inappropriate. As a precedent, consider the case of University of Pennsylvania law professor Professor Amy Wax who made adverse comments about black students in a required course and was subsequently removed from this teaching role.
Letters written in support of Dr Sheehy claim he is being “silenced” because of his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Let us be clear that this is simply not the case. He remains free to express his political and academic views, which are not relevant here. His classroom ritual. If the allegations against him are supported by facts, his willingness to bully, belittle and retaliate against students of a particular religious and ethnic background and national origin is highly unprofessional. Therefore, we are disappointed by the grossly inadequate response to student concerns demonstrated by faculty in GWU’s psychology program and by administrators at higher levels of leadership. At a time when considerable resources are poured into promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is not anti-Semitic to characterize Jews and Israelis as undeserving of these protections. Furthermore, it is ironic that Jewish Voice for Peace is criticizing StandWithU, the organization that filed the complaint on behalf of GWU students, for “…mixing the emotional discomfort of some Jewish students with targeted harassment…”. This is especially absurd when diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts argue that the impact outweighs the intent regarding racism and discrimination. StandWithU’s particular politics as an organization have no bearing on whether student complaints should be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, Dr. Many of the letters circulated in support of Sheehy shy away from the important issues and claim that concerns about her alleged classroom behavior are simply attempts to limit her academic freedom, encourage threats to her safety, “doxing” and/or come from the right-wing “playbook.” These claims are baseless. Indeed:
We condemn in the strongest terms possible any threat to Dr. Sheehy’s safety (or those close to him).
We strongly oppose any attempt to “dox” Dr. Sheehy or release personal information about him in a malicious attempt to discredit him prior to an investigation by the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The allegations against him are alarming enough as they stand. There is no need for these cynical tactics.
We strongly support academic freedom, although many of us disagree with Dr. Sheehy’s formulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We deny that concerns about Dr. Sheehy arise only from right-wing or powerful Jewish conspiracies and will not remain. on the tired antisemitic trope that underlies this argument. Concerns about his behavior and his suitability for certain educational and leadership roles come from across the political spectrum.
We recognize that the allegations in the StandWithUs Complaint are still allegations. We urge the Department of Education and the GWU to promptly and impartially conduct their own investigation, assessing the testimony of Jewish and Israeli students in light of the substantial evidence.
The fact that some extremists. Sheehy’s doxing and death threats, while deeply unfortunate, should not be used to silence legitimate concerns about his suitability for teaching or leadership roles. Dr. Sheehy is quite entitled to his opinion, his academic freedom, and above all, his personal safety. But as a teacher of a diverse group of students and a leader of a diverse organization, she will not allow her political views to prejudge her interactions with students, patients or colleagues. [emphasis added by DB]
We hope that this expression of concern will clear up the serious misconceptions present in various letters of support for Dr. Sheehy. We choose to speak out because incidents of bullying, belittling, and excluding Jewish and Israeli students are increasingly common on campuses across the United States and rarely receive the scrutiny and impartial treatment they deserve. They not only fuel a resurgence of global Zionism but also fuel a dangerous juncture in mental health where activism is entering counseling rooms, where “anti-discrimination” efforts covertly condone discrimination and where openly masquerade as unprofessional and unethical behavior. Academic freedom.
In conclusion, we call on GWU to release Dr. Sheehy from his teaching role in required courses until this matter is adjudicated. In light of the material available online, if the allegations against Dr. Sheehy are proven in part or in whole, it may also cast doubt on his suitability to train psychotherapists in general.
Respectfully and sincerely signed,
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