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Carnegie Mellon accused of 'cruel campaign of antisemitism,' accepting millions from Qatar: lawsuit

A Jewish student at Carnegie Mellon University is suing the institution, alleging a “cruel campaign of antisemitic abuse" carried out by its faculty and administration.

A Jewish architecture major at Carnegie Mellon University is suing the prestigious Pittsburgh institution, alleging a "cruel campaign of antisemitic abuse" carried out by its faculty and administration.

Yael Canaan, a Jewish woman of Israeli descent who attended the School of Architecture at CMU from 2018 to 2023, claims in the suit filed in federal court Wednesday that she endured a "systemic campaign of hostility" by professors on campus during her time as a student.

It resulted in her suffering physical symptoms, "requiring doctor’s visits, debilitating and nausea-inducing migraines, depression, isolationism, and anxiety, and treatment, including medications," the suit says. 

The lawsuit, filed by her attorneys at the Lawfare Project, a human rights firm, notes CMU has received "outsized" donations from Qatar to the tune of nearly $600 million and has a satellite campus in Doha, Qatar, a notoriously antisemitic country in the Middle East. 


"Yael deserves to have her civil rights protected. The school needs to be held accountable for not just tolerating and allowing a discriminatory environment, but for the retaliation she received after the fact. We want to create real systemic change within this university system," Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, told Fox News Digital in an interview. 

The lawsuit names professor Mary-Lou Arscott, associate head for design fundamentals, as Canaan's chief aggressor. In one instance, Arscott allegedly criticized one of Canaan's projects, a model she created focused on the conversion of a public space into a private space through an eruv.

An eruv is a small wire boundary that symbolically extends the private domain of devoutly religious Jewish households into public areas, permitting activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath. It is an integral feature of many neighborhoods with large devout Jewish populations, the lawsuit notes.


"In response to questioning, Canaan began explaining the concept of an eruv to Arscott, but Arscott cut her off. Arscott said — completely out of the blue — that the wall in the model looked like the wall Israelis use to barricade Palestinians out of Israel," the lawsuit says. 

"This shocked Canaan, who then tried to regain her composure and finish her presentation. But when Canaan finished, Arscott said only that Canaan’s time would have been better spent if she had instead explored ‘what Jews do to make themselves such a hated group,’" the suit says.

The legal filing describes Canaan’s attempts to move CMU’s administration, including Erica Cochran Hameen, the School of Arcitecture's director of DEI, into action – but to no avail.

"Hameen claimed she was shocked and appalled by the incident, and assured Canaan that she would speak to Arscott. To Canaan’s knowledge, however, Hameen never did so. No one from CMU’s DEI Office ever followed up," the suit says.

Six months after the incident, CMU administrators set up a Zoom call between Arscott and Canaan. Finally, the administration scheduled a Zoom meeting with Canaan and Arscott, Arscott "refused to apologize and expressed no remorse for her conduct. She stated to Canaan only, ‘I’m sorry you felt that way.’ Canaan realized that the DEI Office had done nothing to ‘facilitate’ or prepare Arscott in any way, or even to inform Arscott about what Canaan reported," the lawsuit says. 


Things then escalated, according to the suit, when Arscott after the Zoom meeting emailed Canaan a link to an "anti-Jewish, anti-Israel blog" called The Funambulist that she had referenced on the Zoom. Arscott urged Canaan to read The Funambulist’s content at the link that she shared because it provided her with "insightful ... perspective." 

According to the suit, the Funambulist regularly publishes antisemitic and anti-Israel articles, including articles that promote pictures of terrorist organizations throwing Molotov cocktails at Jewish people and that decry the "Judaization" of a region of Israel. It is filled with article titles that refer to "Israeli Apartheid" and "Israeli Police: The Daily Practice of Collective Punishment Against Palestinians." 

The Lawfare Project claims the Funambulist’s content falls squarely within the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by 43 countries, including the United States.

Canaan then took her concerns to the school’s Title IX office, which accepts discrimination claims. But, according to the lawsuit, the office "aggressively discouraged Canaan from filing a formal complaint, which would have triggered an investigation of Arscott, the DEI Office’s failure to address the misconduct, and the systemic culture of antisemitism at CMU."

Canaan says she faced retaliatory actions from other professors, too, including Theodossis Issaias. At one point, Canaan reached out to Issaias to express her concerns about the antisemitic treatment to which she had been subjected.

"Issaias did not take Canaan seriously. Soon after Canaan confided in Issaias about Arscott’s antisemitic statements and actions, Issaias invited the class to a party at Arscott’s home," the suit says. 


"When Canaan mentioned how disturbed she was that Isaaias would choose Arscott’s home as a venue for a class party, Issaais told Canaan that ‘breaking bread is a process of reconciliation’ and that Canaan needed to stop "acting like a victim" and that he was ‘not there to fight her battles for her.'" He complained that Canaan was ‘calling all of us antisemites' and stated that he ‘cannot be an advocate for the Jews,’" the suit says.

The suit alleges that Issaias thereafter refused Canaan the one-on-one attention that he gave to all of her classmates, meaning Canaan lost the opportunity for individualized feedback on her projects, which was a core part of the curriculum. 

The lawsuit says that "CMU’s officials' deliberate indifference to Canaan’s plight was intentional, systematic, and, upon information and belief, a direct result of CMU’s ties to Qatar."

CMU established a campus in Qatar, and from 2004 to 2019, CMU reported funding from Qatar of $591,571,726. The details of CMU’s contractual and other relationships with Qatar are not publicly disclosed, but they appear to motivate CMU officials not to carry out their responsibilities under the U.S. law to, among other things, protect Canaan, the suit alleges. 

The suit notes that Arscott herself spent professional time in Qatar. 

The lawsuit comes after Ivy League campuses across the country have come under fire from both sides of the political aisle and across ideologies for allowing rhetoric calling for genocide and violence against Jews on their campuses. 

"We can see that there is hatred and radicalization happening on our campuses. And the question is why? What role does foreign funding play? Why is that being tolerated?" said Goldstein. 

"The Jewish community is a minority community with the oldest, most persecuted minority community in human history. And now it is crucial that in the age of minority rights movements, Jew hatred is shunned.

"It’s time for the Jewish community once and for all to be given parity."


Among other things, Canaan and her attorneys are seeking punitive and monetary damages.

A spokesperson for CMU told Fox News Digital in a statement,"We are steadfast in our commitment to create and nurture a welcoming, inclusive and supportive environment where all students can reach their potential and thrive. We take any allegations of mistreatment or harassment seriously. We have just received notice of this lawsuit and we will evaluate and respond to it."

A spokesperson for the Qatari embassy in Washington D.C. did not respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment by time of publication.

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