A July 9 letter addressed to administrators of Johns Hopkins University is demanding new action be taken some eight months after a Johns Hopkins teaching assistant created a social media post viewed as antisemitic.
In November 2020, a teaching assistant, under the Twitter account “immalreesh,” tweeted, “ethical dilemma: if you have to grade a zionist students exam, do you still give them all their points even though they support your ethnic cleansing? like idk.” The tweet included a poll that included two choices: “yes rasha. be a good ta,” or “free palestine! fail them.”
The “immalreesh” Twitter account no longer appears to be listed.
Afterward, the Baltimore Zionist District and Stop Antisemitism identified the TA as Rasha Anayah. A LinkedIn profile bearing Anayah’s name lists her as a Ph.D. candidate at Johns Hopkins and a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, with much of her listed coursework focusing on chemistry, biology and mathematics.
The July letter, composed jointly by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and StandWithUs, was directed both to Sunil Kumar, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and Shanon Shumpert, vice provost for institutional equity. The July letter was in response, it said, to letters sent in February and May by Kumar, on behalf of the university leadership, to the Brandeis Center and StandWithUs regarding the issue.
The Brandeis Center and StandWithUs, the July letter read, appreciated the decision to include antisemitism in the University’s anti-racism training. The groups also understood that certain privacy laws limit the university’s ability to share information regarding its investigation of the conduct of the teaching assistant.
“We are nevertheless concerned that the University’s understanding of privacy laws may limit its efforts to end the harassment and hostile environment generated by the TA’s conduct,” the July letter read.
“While investigation is an essential first step, it is just that—a first step. Not only is the University able to do more, it must do more, as a matter of federal civil rights law and University policy,” the July letter continued.
The July letter called on Johns Hopkins to, at a minimum, make clear that the type of conduct the TA has been accused of will not be tolerated, and that it is not in keeping with the university’s values of inclusion and mutual respect.
The July letter also urged Johns Hopkins to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism; publicize the means students can report harassment; and provide training to faculty, students and teaching assistants so they can better recognize, report and desist from behavior that vilifies or compromises the education of students based on their Jewish identity.
“No student at Johns Hopkins—whether in a science or humanities course— should have to wonder if her grades are suffering because of her religious or ethnic identity,” the July letter said.
In a statement, Johns Hopkins said that they had already denounced antisemitism on numerous occasions, and that the university takes seriously the safety of its community and ensuring students are not subjected to unequal treatment because of their religion, race or national origin.
“As we have said publicly many times, Johns Hopkins unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism in all its forms,” said Andrew Green, vice president for communications at Johns Hopkins, in an email. “In January, President Daniels communicated in the strongest terms our commitment to take all appropriate action to protect the safety and well-being of all members of our community. Provost Kumar reiterated our position in a letter to impacted students and other stakeholders in May. And our student and academic affairs teams have communicated our unwavering position on this issue in formal and informal settings.”
Green said the investigation of the incident has concluded and that The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 bars them from sharing anything regarding the outcome or details of the case.
Johns Hopkins has established policies and procedures for reviewing accusations of bias or academic misconduct, Green said, insisting that the university took the matter seriously while maintaining the safety of their community.
“Whenever appropriate, we take both interim and permanent measures to ensure that the academic integrity of our community is protected and that no student is subject to the threat of perceived or actual unequal treatment on the basis of their race, religion, or national origin,” Green said.
7/19/21 1:51 p.m. Update: This article was updated to include comments from Andrew Green, vice president for communications at Johns Hopkins University.