Calls to destroy Israel throbbed outside the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs last Thursday. Members of GW Student Coalition for Palestine (GWSCP) protested an event with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, shouting militant chants such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and calling Thomas-Greenfield a “Zionist Imperial Puppet.” They even hung a dozen-foot-long Palestinian flag over the building and handed out pamphlets that used the spelling “Amerikkka” to describe the U.S. amid claiming that “imperialism in blackface is not progress,” referencing Zionism.

With campus culture increasingly toxic in the wake of Hamas’s massacre of 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, the school administration promised to take steps to“strengthen our community in challenging times.” Receiving a generous “C” grade according to the new Anti-Defamation League (ADF) campus antisemitism report card, GW is failing to live up to its commitments.

Strains on GW’s community became evident on Oct. 25, when members of GW’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJPGWU) projected slogans lauding violence, such as “glory to our martyrs,” on the exterior of Gelman Library. GW’s administration enacted a 90-day suspension of SJPGWU for violating university policy to which the group responded by reconstituting itself as GWSCP, detached from formal university affiliation. 

Following continued anti-Israel disruptions that violated policy and pressure from donors, parents, alumni, students and beyond, the school administration created a three-pronged plan to “foster productive dialogue,” “strengthen partnerships and support,” and “renew policies and procedures” to protect Jewish students and pave the path toward a more harmonious community. The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities also began disciplinary proceedings for specific students engaging in severe, frequent and pervasive breaches of the student code of conduct, including but not limited to tearing down posters from the inside of GW’s Hillel building. Around three months later, GW has failed to enforce its new plan and policies while emboldening a loud, fringe minority.

While imperfect, the plan did institute new clear policies and reinforce existing ones. Such policies would ensure that students engaging in “community disturbance,” making “excessive noise either inside or outside a building, including but not limited to shouting, pounding objects or surfaces, or playing music or other electronics at a loud volume in a manner that disturbs others,” are prohibited from occurring in the first place. 

GW has a long history of antisemitism and has been under fire before for allowing it to fester. Last April, the U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into GW after the university failed to address Jewish-Israeli students’ concerns over alleged antisemitic harassment by psychology professor Lara Sheehi — who recently left GW and now teaches in Doha, Qatar. 

Thursday’s protest violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance — which, as of 2019, includes antisemitism by executive order. 

Amid the demonstrations, students complained that they were “unable to focus” on their studies and even quizzes due to the raucous and sheer shock. This clearly violates GW’s discriminatory harassment policies, whereby behaviors “in any context” even without the “intent to harm” that “unreasonably interfere with, limit, or deprive an individual of participating or benefiting from the university’s educational…experience” breach the code.  

GW’s administration certainly seeks to avoid another Title VI investigation and the prospect of a lawsuit as many other universities, like The Ohio State University, have recently incurred. An easy first step to averting this would be addressing issues of student organizations masterfully skirting around accountability. If the same behaviors are occurring on the same premises, with the same students, and leading to the same breaches of the student code of conduct, there should be no reason that school policy does not apply. 

Abiding by policy is a duty. Eradicating the hypocrisy and moral rot occurring inside our institution is imperative. If GW seeks to regain the trust of its Jewish and Israeli students and remain true to its values of diversity, equity and inclusion, it must enforce its new plan and add deterrence measures.

In a disappointing move, GW’s Fall 2023-Spring 2024 Student Association administration decided to discontinue the antisemitism task force instituted by former Student Association President Christian Zidouemba last March. The university administration has failed to institute a task force linked to the school administration even after various requests from parents and students in the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks. While task forces’ efficacy is contested due to concerns of mere performativity, one could have helped address antisemitic behaviors from the onset, before they escalated. Failing to form an antisemitism task force demonstrates GW’s lack of seriousness when it comes to protecting all students.

Jewish students not only deal with hostility in the campus public square, but they frequently contend with professors propagating distortions about Israel and anti-Zionism. Teaching with bias is even more problematic due to the inherent power imbalance in the student-professor relationship, where the student often regards the professor as an expert intellectual authority. Students with limited knowledge of the Middle East are thus inclined to join in the inflammatory activism of their GWSCP peers. 

Inside the esteemed Elliott School of International Affairs sits the Institute of Middle East Studies (IMES), whose many scholars are professors at GW. IMES also hosts the DC Arabic Teacher’s Council, which is sponsored by Qatari Foundation International (QFI). QFI’s mark on IMES has been clear in the programming biased against Israel that it has presented before, and most notably, after Oct. 7.  

On Oct. 16, IMES facilitated a panel of Middle East experts who did not have not a single firmly pro-Israel perspective; on Oct. 18, IMES hosted the screening of “Israelism,” a film containing distorted facts and anti-Israel propaganda; and on Dec. 4, three IMES professors spoke at a GW Medical School panel that ignored Hamas atrocities and defended its attack on Israel as a “right of resistance.”

Fast forward to this week: On April 19, IMES will hold its annual conference titled “Middle East Knowledge Production In the Aftermath of October 7.” The array of scholars chairing the panels—many of whom spoke at the panel on Oct. 16—and language of “decoloniz[ing] academic knowledge production in Middle East Studies,” “Palestine/Israel Studies in the shadow of a genocide,” and “knowledge-production amidst dehumanization” with zero reference to the hostages or condemnation of Hamas on their website, paired with IMES’s past programming, make clear the conference will not be balanced. 

According to GW’s Faculty Code of Conduct, academics must defend“intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry and instruction, and the free expression of ideas.” 

If GW is truly committed to values of diversity and the principle that “academic institutions exist for the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the development of students, and the general well-being of society” where “free inquiry and free expression are indispensable to the attainment of these goals,” it must also review the integrity of the curriculum and institute hiring practices that include pro-Israel Jewish faculty members and ideally, those who can present all narratives of conflict with historical fact. Enrollment in an institution as prestigious as GW must guarantee that all students are afforded true academic freedom—that of academic diversity, the inclusion of all perspectives in their learning, and the equal opportunity to learn in peace alongside their peers. 

Shallow excuses for failing to enforce school policy do not suffice. Above all, GW and all academic institutions have the fiduciary duty to protect all its students—including Jewish-Israeli and Zionist students. With lawsuits looming, and reputational damage imminent, the failure to do so may result in serious penalties for GW and its community.

This article was originally published on

arrow-rightArtboard 2arrowArtboard 1awardArtboard 3bookletArtboard 2brushArtboard 2buildingArtboard 2business-personArtboard 2calendarArtboard 2caret-downcheckArtboard 10checkArtboard 10clockArtboard 2closeArtboard 2crownArtboard 2documentArtboard 2down-arrowArtboard 2facebookArtboard 1gearArtboard 2heartArtboard 2homeArtboard 2instagramArtboard 1keyArtboard 2locationArtboard 2paperclipArtboard 1pencilArtboard 2personArtboard 1pictureArtboard 2pie-chartArtboard 2planeArtboard 2presentationArtboard 2searchArtboard 2speech-bubbleArtboard 1starArtboard 2street-signArtboard 2toolsArtboard 2trophyArtboard 1twitterArtboard 1youtubeArtboard 1