‘LMAO’: Dean of Columbia College Mocked Hillel Head in Newly Obtained Text Exchange

Josef Sorett has sought to distance himself from leaked messages that are now the subject of a university investigation. The latest text message shows his participation in the affair.

Josef Sorett (
June 21, 2024

The dean of Columbia College, Josef Sorett, sneered at Columbia’s top Hillel official in a new text message obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, further implicating him in the texting scandal that has caused three of his colleagues to be placed on leave.

"LMAO," Sorett said in response to a sarcastic message from his colleague, Columbia’s vice dean and chief administrative officer Susan Chang-Kim, who said of Columbia’s Hillel director, Brian Cohen, "He is our hero."

The exchange, according to the person who photographed Chang-Kim’s cell phone during the May 31 panel on anti-Semitism, came as Cohen told a concerned parent in the audience that his "soul has been broken" by the protests on Columbia’s campus—which included calls to murder Jewish students and "burn Tel Aviv to the ground."

Columbia deans Susan Chang-Kim and Josef Sorett exchange text messages during May 31 panel on the future of Jewish life on campus

In an earlier exchange between the two officials, Sorett agreed with Chang-Kim’s verdict that the panel, which included Jewish students and parents as well as faculty, was "difficult to listen to."

Sorett has since sought to distance himself from that exchange, though, telling an alumni advisory board that the messages did not "indicate the views of any individual or the team."

He has not addressed his own participation in the back and forth or offered more than a vague apology for a separate text chain in which two other Columbia University deans, Matthew Patashnick and Cristen Kromm, exchanged messages with Chang-Kim as the panel discussion proceeded, using vomit emojis to describe a Columbia rabbi’s op-ed and arguing that Cohen was capitalizing on the moment for "fundraising potential."

Sorett said Thursday that Patashnick, Kromm, and Chang-Kim had been placed on leave pending an investigation.

The university declined to comment on why Sorett is not also under investigation, on who would conduct the investigation and to whom the results would be reported, and on whether the results would be made public.

In the new exchange, Chang-Kim appears to take issue with remarks from panel moderator and the former co-chairwoman of Columbia’s board of trustees, Lisa Carnoy, who, sources told the Free Beacon, is pressing the university to change its admissions application to screen for students who are tolerant of dissenting views.

Carnoy told the audience, "When we select students in recent years, we've often asked students, and you can look at the supplement application for the college and it says, basically, ‘Why are you different?’ And what we need to ask about is, ‘How do you engage with people that are from different backgrounds?’ And also, ‘Where has something you believe evolved? Where has someone changed your view, and how excited are you to be in an environment where you will be challenged?’"

Regarding those remarks, Chang-Kim wrote to Sorett, "Well now we know why this is on the trustees’ meeting agenda. LC put it there."

Neither Sorett nor Chang-Kim responded to a request for comment. A Columbia University spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Carnoy did not respond to a request for comment.

Days after a Free Beacon report revealed the first batch of messages, Sorett acknowledged that an "unknown third party" had captured them, calling it an "invasion of privacy."

"These texts are not emblematic of the totality of their work," Sorett told Columbia's Board of Visitors, an alumni body that advises the dean, in a Friday email. "It makes the hard work that we are committed to even more challenging."

The new exchange, which has not been previously reported, could create an additional challenge for Sorett as he seeks to stem the fallout from the leaked messages. It raises questions about what else could be uncovered if Columbia complies with a request from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the congressional body investigating campus anti-Semitism, to turn over the texts by June 26. Columbia has said it "will respond" to the committee’s request.

Sorett’s derisive messages and those of his colleagues have shocked Jewish students, who say the texts reflect the way in which Columbia administrators have echoed and emboldened their most radical students.

"It's no wonder these students feel entitled to go take over a lawn or take over a building when you have actual leaders—people who hold a meaningful title—sending puke emojis as somebody's speaking," one student told the Free Beacon. "They are insinuating that [the Jewish panelists] are just lining their pockets with money."