Campus Free Speech

Johns Hopkins Investigating TA Who Tweeted About Whether to Lower Grades of "Zionist Students"

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The Johns Hopkins News-Letter reports:

The Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) has opened an investigation into comments made by Rasha Anayah, a teaching assistant (TA) and graduate student in the Department of Chemistry, following reports that several of her tweets targeted Zionist and Jewish students.

"[E]thical 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," one tweet read.

A poll accompanying the Nov. 15 tweet asked respondents to choose between "yes rasha. be a good ta" and "free palestine! fail them."

Anayah has been a TA for "Applied Chemical Equilibrium and Reactivity" for two years. This fall, she served as the head TA for the course.

TAs and university professors should of course be free to express whatever views they want, whether anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic, anti-Palestinian, anti-Catholic, anti-conservative-Protestant, anti-Muslim, anti-Republican, anti-Democrat, anti-black, anti-white, or anything else. To the extent that some students worry as a result that the instructors will grade them down based on their race, religion, politics, etc., I don't think that worry can justify suppressing such speech; if it did, then a vast range of speech would be stripped of academic freedom protection.

(Note that of course discrimination in grading based on students' political affiliation, and not just based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, etc., is unethical in a university; and at public universities it's unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Though of course grading of an exam can't be content-neutral—it must evaluate the substance of the speech being graded—it can't properly rely on a student's ideological views outside the exam.)

But if instructors publicly discusses the possibility that they will indeed grade down students based on the students' ideology, ethnicity, religion, race, and the like (e.g., by saying "idk" whether "Zionist" students should be treated this way), then it seems to me that the university should indeed investigate whether such discrimination has indeed taken place, and make clear to instructors and students that such discrimination is forbidden.

And, of course, this distinction isn't just limited to statements that suggest discriminatory treatment. If university professors publicly praises violent revolution, their speech shouldn't be restricted. If they Tweet, "Ethical dilemma: Should I sabotage some of the research I'm involved with if it advances capitalist oppression [or, if you prefer, if it advances Socialist oppression]? idk," I think the university should investigate whether such sabotage has happened or is planned.

Likewise, if medical school clinical professors condemn abortion as murder, their speech shouldn't be restricted. If they Tweet, "Ethical dilemma: If a patient asks me whether her pregnancy is too far along to have a safe and legal abortion, should I lie and say 'yes, it's too late,' to protect the innocent baby's life? idk," the university should investigate that as well.

According to the article, by the way, the TA had previously also tweeted this, which suggests that her objections aren't just to "Zionist" in the sense of ideology:

[D]idn't get pinned with an israeli or some bitch white boy to have to share my knowledge with …. [W]e 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 [o]ne of them or one of these conceited white boys i would have lost it.

The TA's response:

In regards to my teaching and evaluation of students, I have always acted with the utmost integrity and fairness…. I am a dedicated teacher and scholar with a commitment to social justice and to my role. My record as a teaching assistant is a testament to these facts.

It's not clear whether "utmost integrity and fairness" and "a commitment to social justice" would, in her view, preclude discrimination against "Zionists," require such discrimination, or something else. (Thanks to Prof. Glenn Reynolds [Instapundit] for the pointer.)

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  1. If the TA had tweeted a similar message about African-American students, would the reaction have been as tame?

    1. Quicker, faster, more immediate even. But yes, the same.

      1. “Quicker, faster [and] more immediate” would seem to make it considerably less tame.

      2. If it had been about African Americans, there would be protests, and the grad student would’ve been suspended at best, and more likely just expelled. If the grad student was unlucky, they’d be doxxed as well.

        1. Oh, no — grad student would be lucky not to be murdered — with impunity. Grad student would not only be doxxed but pursued off-campus by thugs.

        2. Not only that. But the university would have immediately expressed outrage, revulsion and nausea at the comment, would have immediately apologized for the comment, would have apologized for allowing the grad student to teach, would have apologized for admitting the grad student into the university in the first place, would have apologized for accepting her application to the graduate program, And would have immediately announced a “day of reckoning” to self–evaluate how this could’ve happened in the first place, and whether the university should immediately shut down for the shame of it all.

          1. Don’t forget hiring another administrator or two with a 6-figure salary, and then setting up a set-aside hiring program for the victimized.

    2. Apparently, she’s not going to take time to educate herself about these issues.

      I wish her response was the way those persons who do have accusations made against them that are total BS would respond.

    3. That obnoxious, shameless and racist TA said aloud what liberal university administrators and faculty practice in silence on a daily basis. It is a cultural thing. That TA is a product of the academic culture of Johns Hopkins University.

      I know of a brilliant, prolific, well-cited, independent-minded, associate professor in a state university whose work was deliberately and deceptively misread and diminished. His application for promotion was voted down by his colleagues–including his Jewish colleagues, one of whom was his co-author. They were just too scared to differ with the majority. The unfortunate professor, who happened to be a person of color, raised the matter with the administration. The decision was that the discriminatory denial of promotion would not go into his record–like it never happened. That was it. The professor in question was promptly hired and promoted by another state university.

  2. It seems grading an exam on “Applied Chemical Equilibrium and Reactivity” wouldn’t leave much room for ideological positions however some other courses are more amenable to viewpoint discrimination.

    1. Don’t be too sure about that. I’ve seen what is being passed off as engineering classes these days.

    2. No, but one could easily grade HW, labs, and tests more harshly for students they don’t like, and unless someone with knowledge of the subject matter carefully compares the grading across the entire class, it would be very hard to detect and prove.

      1. Definitely the case, Molly.

    3. “ideological positions ”

      She is grading on them being Jewish.

      Zionist = Jew

      1. “Zionist = Jew”

        Utter nonsense – there are plenty of Jews who are critical of Israel and are not Zionists.

        This is akin to saying anyone who is opposed to CCP governance is necessarily an anti-Chinese bigot. Absurd.

        1. Its what she thinks.

        2. And there are plenty of anti-semites who use “Zionist” as a cover for their Jew hatred. The question is not whether one can be Jewish and against Zionism (you can), but how this person used the term.

          1. I agree, and note also that there are plenty of Zionists who are critical of “Israel,” if by “Israel” you mean the policies of the Netanhyahu government.

        3. There are many non-religious Jews, that parrot all the socially acceptable nonsense to show their woketude. One can only think that they expect to be treated differently by the (insert political faction here, i.e. communists, fascists, white supremacists, mohammedans, etc) and are quite surprised they are on the last train to the camps…

          1. I put that more bluntly: Exactly what part of “Kill the Jews” do American Jews not understand?

        4. AT,
          There many be anti-Zionist Jews, but your equal sign is not what the comment was. Rather the symbolic rendition is Zionist => Jews. At not 100% the case all the time, but true in an overwhelming majority of cases.
          Your analogy is also bogus

    4. Not viewpoint discrimination, but just outright discrimination.

    5. Eh there is still quite a bit wiggle room.

      For many of my classes, as a chemical engineer, if the TAs and graders strictly adhered to the answer pages literally no one would pass. The TAs are expected to subjectively address the seriousness of the error made.

      In general you are working with long problems that have many steps. A test might only be 2 questions. So you have to analyze every step, and while that process is standardized, there is some subjectivity involved.

      It wouldn’t be hard for the TA simply to say, hey, you got the answer wrong, to a select few students and to apply that wiggle room generally given for others.

  3. I’ve had it happen. I went to college at a late age. On the first day there was an orientation that was mandatory for new students. I went, registered and was given a name tag. Nobody said anything about the name tags being color coded. I got to my first class, English and after class the instructor asked me to stay for a minute. That’s how I found out that the blue name tag meant that I was a veteran. I was told by my instructor that he didn’t like the military and that I need not come to class again and he would give me a “C” for the class. Well we had a small discussion, I came to every class, got the “A” I deserved and that was it. After my discussion with him, I had one with the Dean of Students about the color coded name tags. When I graduated the Dean said “You’re a nice guy, but, I’m glad to see you go.”

    1. I’m not sure those color coded name tags were legal.

      1. Let me guess: you think they violated HIPPA. Or FERPA. Or ERISA.

        1. There is a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination against veterans. https://www.worker.gov/concerns/veteran-or-service-member-rights/

          This, however, is (arguably) discrimination in education.

          1. Such discrimination almost inevitably becomes comingled with ADA and Section 504, particularly the latter where “generally considered to have a disability” places one in the same protected category as those who actually do.

            Much of this is buried in the ED regs and the OCR regional field manuals and I don’t think that anyone really knows exactly what the rules are. Remember that *everything* is a consent decree — to my knowledge ED has never actually used its enforcement power to cut off all Federal funds to a recipient.

            NB: ED is US Dept of Education — DOE was already taken by the US Dept of Energy which came first.

        2. I think people who misspell HIPAA should have to wear special tags.

        3. “Let me guess: you think they violated HIPPA. Or FERPA. Or ERISA.”

          Actually, arguably, this could also be possibly construed as being a FERPA violation, but I was thinking of the regs relating to the various incarnations of the GI Bill.

          I vaguely remember being told in some conference that one of the strings attached to the institution’s receipt of that money was nondiscrimination against veterans who were students.

      2. Let’s just say they don’t do it anymore.

      3. Hrm…

        As long as they avoided any such “color coding” that was on (or a proxy for) enumerated categories protected by law, they were probably legal. Off the top of my head, I don’t think there’s any such protections for veterans.

        Which is a different question from “ethical”, of course.

        1. D’oh, should have hit refresh before I commented. Didn’t see Bored Lawyer’s comment above. I am corrected.

    2. I’m surprised they didn’t require you to sew a blue star on your clothing.

    3. I had a professor in Medical School (an American female) tell me that that there was absolutely no way she would allow me to graduate from med school because I am a US Veteran.

      The stupid….teacher made the mistake of saying that to me with witnesses around.

      I took it up with the Dean immediately, and the ‘teacher’ was soon gone – like within two weeks.

      One of the advantages of attending private, not state, schools…

  4. I presume this hate speech has resulted in that account being closed down. I did not see that in the story, be it has to happen, right?

    1. Don’t bet your first born on it.

    2. Escaping any blowback. The votaries of mohammed believe their prophet allows them to lie to unbelievers….She’ll have another account, in another name, and her followers will find out privately.

  5. If a judge were to openly and publicly express bias against a plaintiff, wouldn’t asking for recusal be appropriate? How is this different?

  6. “suggests that her objections aren’t just to “Zionist” in the sense of ideology”

    More than “suggests”.

    She just hates Jews. It has nothing to do with “ideology”.

  7. If one mohammedan is stupid enough to admit doing things like this on social media once, you can be certain that others have been doing it for years…..

    1. I know they have…

    2. Not all heroes wear capes. Some, like Baruch Goldstein, wear a kippah to honor God.

      1. Hey Harvey, go fuck yourself, you genocidal fuck. I mean that in the kindest possible way.

        1. RHW is a parody account.
          Admittedly, not a very good one, though.

  8. Do police officers have free speech too?

    1. As private citizens, yes.

      1. Then why are they fired fo private fb post?

        1. Depends on the post and why they were fired.

        2. Police officers are required to be impartial in the execution of their official duties. If a facebook post demonstrates that an officer is unable to be impartial, then they can be fired because they have demonstrated that they are unable to meet one of the job requirements.

          Think of it a warehouse worker who is unable to lift a 10 lb box onto the shelf. But unlike physical disabilities, there’s no ADA accommodation for bigotry and discrimination.

          That said, it’s a pretty high bar. You can say and think lots of things yet behave impartially. The jump from ‘mean tweet’ to firing is supposed to involve a clear connection to the behavior on the job. Saying that ‘all blacks are stupid’ is mean and discriminatory but protected. Saying that ‘all blacks are criminals’ implies that you will not be fair when investigating them as suspects and should get you fired.

          1. Police officers (in other states) were fired after Charlottesville for Farcebook posts including “that’s what happens when you play in traffic” regarding the woman who died there.

  9. Make clear that such discrimination is forbidden?

    They need to be promptly fired. Where have you been? When people are openly getting fired right and left for merely using languange people don’t like, you think openly discussing real discrimination should get nothing more than a brief talking-to?

  10. “In regards to my teaching and evaluation of students, I have always acted with the utmost integrity and fairness….”

    The bigotry of the tweets suggest otherwise.

    1. She probably thinks its the height of ethical behavior to give bad chem grades to Jews for being Zionists. She’s a little like the Nazis who used to talk about Jewish science and Aryan science.

  11. Oy…. They’re going to have to review all the grades given out for years…there will be lawsuits. Yes, lawsuits. Parents will sue, alleging discrimination and low grades that prevented Med School acceptances. I’ve seen parents sue schools over grades given out before, and with evidence of bias like this, well… Hopkins may lose a lot of money here

    There are ways to avoid this. Typically blinding the grading works, often coupled with ~10-20% of exams being photocopied and simultaneously graded by a second individual, then checking of the grades between the photocopied and original exam. But I doubt they did this in this case.

    1. Courts are loath to interfere with academic judgements, except here she is saying she will be biased. Could be interesting…

  12. It would be a pity if her advanced studies in improved explosives were interrupted.

  13. 1. The described behavior is unacceptable, ugly, wrong, and unethical.

    2. THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY
    This conservative blog
    has operated for
    TWENTY (20) DAYS
    without gratuitous use
    of a vile racial slur and
    636 DAYS
    since it most recently imposed partisan,
    viewpoint-driven censorship.

    1. Grow up, Kirkland…

    2. I wish Simon bar Kokhba wiped all you Christfags out!

      1. I haven’t figured it out. Are you a parody, or are you really a genocidal fuckwad?

        1. Which makes him either a genius parodist, or an incredibly stupid genocidist.

          1. You left out the third option: That he’s annoying.

    3. “TWENTY (20) DAYS without gratuitous use of a vile racial slur and…”

      My recent uses weren’t gratuitous? Awesome!

      1. Perhaps I missed them. Their frequency — whether from a Conspirator or a commenter — makes it easy to miss some.

    4. ok Kirkland-brand Meeseeks

  14. I beg to differ. An instructor with the power to assign grades is like an employee with the power to hire and fire. If he tells a student, publicly or not, that he may use his power to improperly discriminate, the institution ought to fire him, and should be liable if it allows him to retain that power.

    1. My thoughts exactly. Furthermore, doesn’t this put the university at risk of breach of contract for dealing in bad faith?

  15. How many open, active members of the KKK are in teaching positions?

    Exams should have code number identifiers, not names. It is common for all these leftist professors to flunk any dissenters from their sick, unAmerican views.

  16. I think its says more about the university that no one noticed before this tweet.

    1. That said, I agree with the article. This person should be investigated not fired, and security precautions should be put in place to make sure that no ones grades have been affected.

      1. Hopkins, one of my alma maters, can fire her without fear of serious blowback of any sort. On the other hand, if they keep her on after whatever disciplinary measures they may impose, I am reasonably confident they will have serious headaches for a long time to come, deservedly.

        Why should Jewish students feel insecure and made to watch their backs, because the school is not solicitous of their well-being? EV might be OK with such institutional indifference to rank bigotry, but that doesn’t speak well for him.

        So illocust, can you make a persuasive argument of any sort why the TA shouldn’t be canned forthwith? Why should Hopkins or any school have to take special measures to ensure the integrity of their academic programs, including their grades?

        1. Just wondering, when did you graduate?

          I can’t speak to Hopkins, but we are now in the 21st Century where woke activists will wreak havoc if an administrator makes the (correct but “wrong”) decision and they all know it.

          OTOH, antisemitism is openly tolerated, and the BDS movement is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a *reason* why I keep asking “what part of ‘Kill the Jews’ do American Jews not understand” — there are people in academia openly saying that.

  17. Not everything has to be a legal case.

    The TA’s behavior is entirely unprofessional, regardless of his right to say it. I would make sure not to have him as a TA in one of my classes going forward, and I would refuse to write him a letter of recommendation.

    1. Except (a) it’s a “her” and you know the issue of needing more women in STEM, and (b) of a correct racial group, with the issues of diversity in STEM.

      For all we know, she may be an affirmative-action recruit or even in a special program where the department is *required* to hire her. (UMass Amherst has such a program where NSF and institutional money is used to hire persons of specific races as TAs.)

      So even if the supervising professor wished to do so, she well may be protected from termination for any reason short of long-term incarceration.

      1. The other thing to remember is that the supervising professor well may agree with her, and just be bright enough not to publicly state that. Antisemitism now extends into the junior faculty and notwithstanding that, the concept of an objective “right and wrong”, i.e. “unprofessional” behavior, is something the academy hasn’t seen in 30-40 years.

        Everything is now relative. She may be “unprofessional” but as it was toward an approved social goal, it’s OK.

  18. I’d say this TA has displayed “indubitably unusual and troublesome character traits”, to coin a phrase, and probably should be removed. The hostility displayed towards “Zionist” students is obvious and repulsive.

  19. I surprised no one commented on the statement that Zionists “support your ethnic cleansing” or “one of the street signs to tel aviv on her laptop -. it stabbed me every time she opened it.”

    1. Maybe it is one of those James Bond-like laptops, with medium-range stabbing features when the authorized user opens it? like idk.

    2. ““one of the street signs to tel aviv on her laptop -. it stabbed me every time she opened it.”

      The first time it did, it would have flexed the glass screen enough to break it. I say this as someone who has broken the screens of more laptops than I can even remember at this point.

      Seriously. Open a laptop and imagine a rigid object (on either side) snagging on something while the rest of the screen moves upward. Snap — your screen is toast.

      And causing a (detectable) physical injury to another student is definitely something that the Kangaroo Korts will deal with, particularly if it occurs repeatedly. (The few sane administrators left in academia will too.)

      She may have been offended by seeing the sign (which I doubt was anything more than card stock) but for it to even touch her, let alone injure her? Hmmmm….

    3. We’ve reached full normalization of leftist hyperbole; its barely even noticed at this point – people have simply learned to filter out such histrionics.

  20. In regards to my teaching and evaluation of students, I have always acted with the utmost integrity and fairness….

    I mean, y’all will bend over backwards to insist we should take a person at their word when they make this claim after accidentally making public homophobic or sexist comments, so I’m not sure why you’re acting like we shouldn’t trust this one.

    Which is to say, by my standards, she should be fired and her past grading reviewed. But y’all give homophobic asshats a lot of leeway, and surely you wouldn’t be inconsistent or unprincipled, right?

  21. “To the extent that some students worry as a result that the instructors will grade them down based on their race, religion, politics, etc., I don’t think that worry can justify suppressing such speech;”

    Sure, but we can most definitely justify suppressing such gainful employment, as the past year has gratuitously proven.

    Imagine if the tweets had been about Blacks (or worse, if they’d employed the most taboo of slurs to this end). You think this girl would even be able to leave her house without being assaulted by the mob?

  22. MPH ’82, when it was JHSHPH (HYGIENE and PUBLIC HEALTH), that is before Mike Bloomberg for the naming rights for a measly $50M. (He has given JHU about $1B all in, for which the school is duly greatful.)

    The place was woke in my day and I expect it is more so now. Public Health schools lean that way.

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