Dean of Columbia Law School Resigns Amid Anti-Semitism Scandals

Gillian Lester’s likely replacement is David Schizer, a former dean who helped deepen Columbia’s ties with Israel

(Reuters/Amir Cohen and
November 29, 2023

The dean of Columbia Law School, Gillian Lester, announced her resignation on Wednesday amid a spate of anti-Semitism scandals that have rocked the law school on her watch.

"I had originally intended to make this announcement in early October," Lester told the law school in an email, "but my plan was unexpectedly overtaken by current events." She will step down at the end of the academic year.

The law school has been battling accusations of anti-Semitism ever since Hamas’s Oct. 7 rampage through southern Israel, which Lester initially described as the "violence that erupted in Israel and Gaza." Her statement, which did not mention Hamas or anti-Semitism, touched off weeks of damage control at the elite law school, where pro-Palestinian students recently occupied a campus building and disrupted class in violation of school policy. Columbia declined to break up the protest or say whether the students would be punished.

Though the law school has not announced Lester’s replacement, an alum with ties to the administration said that David Schizer, who served as dean from 2004 to 2014, is the leading candidate. A scholar of tax and energy law, Schizer was tapped this month to help lead Columbia University’s task force on anti-Semitism. As dean, he also helped deepen ties between the law school and the Jewish state, opening a Center for Israeli Legal Studies in 2006 that brings prominent Israeli scholars to campus.

"Making him dean again will send a clear message to the anti-Semites," the alum said. "He did the job very successfully before, everyone loved him, and there were no riots."

Schizer and Columbia Law School did not respond to requests for comment.