Washington, D.C. | www.adc.org | January 24, 2023 – ADC has agreed to represent Dr. Lara Sheehi, a professor at George Washington University (GW) in D.C., who is being wrongfully accused of discrimination and antisemitism by StandWithUs, a right-wing pro-Israel political activist group with an established record of smear campaigns against academics. StandWithUs is well known for holding explicitly anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian animus. As in other campaigns, StandWithUs has targeted Dr. Sheehi by mobilizing their allies in the right-wing media and other pro-Israel organizations with the explicit intent to threaten her safety, well-being, professional reputation, and livelihood.
Most recently, the GW administration has empowered StandWithUs’ intentional targeting and slandering of Dr. Sheehi, a Clinical Psychology professor and alumni of the University, by calling for an independent investigation into frivolous claims against her. In doing so, GW is setting a chilling precedent regarding academic freedom of their faculty by going against its internal processes which have already cleared Dr. Sheehi of any wrongdoing. To date, University leadership has chosen to deviate from the regular procedure and preemptively respond to spurious claims rather than wait to hear from the Department of Education, the entity responsible for adjudicating this claim. This further endangers Dr. Sheehi and sets a prejudicial atmosphere for academics such as Dr. Sheehi, who are under a calculated attack of intimidation and harassment..
The University administration is fully aware of the bad faith of this political attack by StandWithUs. The University, the administration and program followed its internal processes this fall leading to the conclusion that the claims against Dr. Sheehi are meritless and baseless. GW is in possession of a clear paper trail that clearly exposes this complaint as part of a larger campaign that is politically and ethnically motivated against Dr. Sheehi because of her scholarship and political activism outside the classroom. This extraordinary treatment of Dr. Sheehi and infringement on academic freedom, in general, occurs within a political climate of increased targeting and repression of Palestinian and Arab narratives and advocacy on college US campuses. We are concerned that by proceeding with an independent third-party investigation, despite the ample evidence in support of Dr. Sheehi’s innocence, GW has given legitimacy to prejudicial, frivolous, and defamatory claims.
We have communicated our concerns to GW leadership over how the university is handling this complaint, including how GW might be intentionally or inadvertently colluding to further isolate Dr. Sheehi. We are confident that when all information is made public, the intent behind this politically motivated harassment campaign against Dr. Sheehi will be evident.
ADC is alarmed by the increasingly hostile environment being created by GW administration for Arab and Muslim students, faculty, and staff, especially those that express support for Palestinian rights. ADC assesses that GW is a hostile campus, and Arab students and faculty must immediately take extra measures to ensure their rights and safety are protected.
We understand that these claims would otherwise not have resulted in such an exaggerated and prejudicial response by GW, nor would they have found traction in public opinion if Dr. Sheehi were not Arab and her scholarship and activism were not focused on Palestine. These slander campaigns, intended to silence dissenting voices, are rooted in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism, a form of racism that silences, excludes, erases, stereotypes, defames, and dehumanizes Arabs and their narratives.
The targeting of Dr. Sheehi, as part of an organized campaign of harassment and intimidation intended to discredit academic advocates of Palestinian human rights, cannot be minimized or disregarded. Universities must withstand attempts by external, politically motivated organizations to impose their will on what is learned, taught, or researched, or to conflate that advocacy for Palestinian human rights and self-determination is antisemitism.
ADC is proud to represent Dr. Lara Sheehi, an internationally recognized clinician, scholar, activist, and beloved professor whose Arab identity and work on mental health in Palestine have led her to be unjustly persecuted by those who seek to censor and harass scholars and supporters of justice.