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Israeli-American Student Sues School of the Art Institute of Chicago Over Claims of Rampant and Unchecked Antisemitism

— January 10, 2024

In her lawsuit, graduate student Shiran Canel claims that the School of the Art Institute of Chicago overlooked blatantly antisemitic acts, including hostile admissions interviews and targeted classroom assignments.

An Israeli-American student has filed a lawsuit against the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, claiming that the college has failed to either recognize or amend rampant antisemitism on its campus.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week on behalf of Shiran Canel, an Israeli-American graduate student. In her complaint, Canel alleges that she has been subjected to persistent and recurring discrimination, with her nationality and religion first questioned in admissions interviews and, later, criticized by professors.

After Hamas launched a near-unprecedented terror attack against Israeli civilian targets on October 7th, for instance, a professor purportedly modified a course assignment “for the purpose of harassing” and intimidating Canel.

“The new assignment required Shiran and her classmates to respond to a collection of images allegedly drawn by Palestinian children that depicted Israeli soldiers engaged in brutal violence,” said Much, the law firm representing Shiran in her claim against the university.

The assignment, created by Assistant Professor Chun-Shan Yi, instructed students to restrain and reflect upon their “complicated feelings, internalized racism/ableism/homophobia/supremacy and countertransference.”

However, Much attorneys say that Canel appears to have been the only student in her course from either Israel or the Palestinian territories—and that Canel’s classmates were not given similar prompts.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“In other words, she is the only student for whom the images could be described as ‘too close to home,’” Much said in a statement. “The other students did not receive a corresponding assignment asking them to respond to images that might ‘upset’ or ‘trigger’ them.”

Canel’s lawsuit includes other examples of antisemitic acts and speech allegedly tolerated by the School of the Art Institute’s administration—including a rambling and controversial social media diatribe written by an associate professor.

“Israelis are pigs. Savages. Very very bad people. Irredeemable excrement,” Associate Professor Mika Tosca wrote on Instagram. “The propaganda has been downright evil. After the past week, if your eyes aren’t open to the crimes against humanity that Israel is committing and has committed for decades, and will continue to commit, then I suggest you open them. It’s disgusting and grotesque. May they all rot in hell.”

Tosca, a climate scientist who appears to have no tangible connection to either Israel or Palestine, later apologized for the post.

In complaint, Canel says that she raised concerns with the School of the Art Institute’s administration.

“Violent words often lead to actual violence,” Canel allegedly said. “How can I be safe?”

But, “despite Shiran’s repeated attempts to gain some measure of security from SAIC, the school never responded.”

“As far as Shiran knows,” the lawsuit says, “SAIC took no action to address the concern regarding her safety on campus.”

The School of the Art Institute has since released a statement saying that, while it cannot comment on pending litigation, it strongly condemns antisemitism and all other forms of hate speech.

“The school strongly condemns antisemitism and any discrimination based on religion, nationality, or any other aspect of a person’s identity,” the school said. “We have policies in place that prohibit discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and the school is unequivocally committed to providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all of our students, faculty and staff.”

“Expression of antisemitism or Islamophobia or hatred and harm against any individual or groups are antithetical to our university values,” the statement said. “We are a university that prides itself on its efforts to foster inclusion and respect, and we condemn these messages that are contrary to our mutual values of inclusion and tolerance.”


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