After more than six months and no public action by Johns Hopkins University to address its teaching assistant’s overtly anti-Semitic posts, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) and StandWithUs demanded in a joint letter that Johns Hopkins University leadership finally publicly affirm that any attempt by faculty or staff to harass, marginalize, or discriminate against Jewish students based on their Jewish identity will not be tolerated.
The Johns Hopkins teaching assistant in question posted a series of antisemitic online statements last Fall that both encouraged students to turn against Zionist peers and targeted Zionist students for discriminatory treatment. On November 15, 2020, she tweeted, “[E]thical dilemma: if you have to grade a Zionist students [sic] exam, do you still give them all their points even though they support your ethnic cleansing? like idk.” Her tweet was in the form of a poll, asking respondents to choose between “yes rasha. be a good ta” and “free palestine! fail them.”
Ms. Anayah’s discriminatory conduct targeting Jewish pro-Israel students was not limited to this single instance. On November 20, 2020, Ms. Anayah tweeted, “we had an undergrad in lab who had been on birthright and had one of the street signs to tel aviv on her laptop. it stabbed me every time she opened it. if i had been paired to one of them or one of these conceited white boys i would have lost it.” In another November 20 tweet, Ms. Anayah said, “y’all allah looking out for me. the majority of undergrads in chem here are white and i was blessed enough to be paired w a black woman to mentor who has good race analysis. didn’t get pinned with an israeli or some b**ch white boy to have to share my knowledge with. alhamdulilah.” Later that same day, Ms. Anayah added, “alhamdulilah for the opportunity to give to students who actually deserve it.”
Although the university informed SWU that it has concluded its investigation, it has remained silent on its institutional response and failed to condemn publicly any of the TA’s conduct, citing privacy laws. LDB and StandWithUs’ letter informed Johns Hopkins that privacy laws do not shield the university from its obligation to protect Jewish students, prevent a hostile campus climate for Jewish students, and deter similar acts of antisemitic discrimination and harassment. At a minimum, this should include an official public statement by Johns Hopkins.
“No student should wonder if they are being targeted for discrimination by faculty, staff, or other students because of their Jewish identity,” said Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder. “Students who find themselves in this position are being deprived of an equal opportunity to participate in their university’s educational environment. Johns Hopkins not only can do more but must do more to show that there is zero tolerance for antisemitism and bias against Jews on campus.”
“Johns Hopkins needs to do more than protect its TA,” said Rachel Lerman, Vice-Chair and Senior Counsel at The Louis D. Brandeis Center. “Civil rights laws and the University’s own mandate require the University to publicly recognize the anti-Semitic nature of the TA’s conduct, reject it in no uncertain terms, and make clear that anti-Semitism is not countenanced on campus. These are the types of steps taken by other universities (e.g., Michigan and UIUC) to eliminate anti-Semitism from their academic communities. Johns Hopkins should follow suit.”
When the anti-Semitic posts were first exposed, the Brandeis Center and StandWithUs urged JHU to swiftly and publicly address and condemn the anti-Semitic incidents and suggested remedies to deter future acts of harassment and discrimination. Some of the remedies included removing Ms. Anayah from her position; issuing a public statement declaring JHU’s support for the JHU students targeted by Ms. Anayah; condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism; incorporating the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism into Johns Hopkins Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures; and providing appropriate training on anti-Semitism to university administrators, faculty, staff, and students.