Point Park moves to dismiss Jewish professor’s lawsuit
College controversyBDS movement took hold at university, lawsuit claims

Point Park moves to dismiss Jewish professor’s lawsuit

Channa Newman, a longtime professor at Point Park and a Holocaust survivor, has amended her complaint again the university to include new claims

Channa Newman (Photo by Toby Tabachnick)
Channa Newman (Photo by Toby Tabachnick)

Channa Newman, a longtime professor at Point Park University who is suing the school for discrimination based on her Jewish and Israeli ancestry, has filed an amended complaint in federal district court that includes new allegations against the university.

Attorneys for Point Park have moved to dismiss the 75-page, 19-count amended complaint in its entirety, averring that Newman has not stated any valid claim against the university.

Newman, a Holocaust survivor with U.S., Israeli and Czech citizenship, has been employed by Point Park since 1964. She is currently the chair of the department of humanities and social sciences and is a professor of French and cultural studies.

In her original 18-count complaint against the university, Newman claimed Point Park allowed a concerted effort, led by anti-Zionist faculty and students, to create a hostile work environment for her.

She alleges that Professor Robert Ross, an outspoken critic of Israel, used his position at the university to promote “highly anti-Zionist views and activities” – including accusing Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” – and to “foster the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.” She claims that Ross and others retaliated against her because she did not acquiesce to their one-sided presentation of the conflict.

The anti-Zionists on campus sought to have Newman removed from her position, she claims, through the filing of a “bogus” Title IX complaint in which a student alleged that Newman made an insensitive comment about the #MeToo movement.

Newman was exonerated from the Title IX charges, but not before she had endured significant maltreatment from the university, including having her classes cancelled mid-semester, being suspended from campus and being denied access to her email, she claims.

Newman’s amended complaint introduces additional alleged instances of anti-Semitism at the university, including a Point Park administrator, at a 2018 staff meeting, referring to her “little Jewish college roommate who was afraid of everything.”

Other allegations include Ross purportedly referring to Hezbollah, an anti-Israel, U.S.-designated terrorist organization, as his “friends.”

The amended complaint, which includes counts of discrimination based on age and sex as well as religion and national origin, also describes the purportedly disparate treatment that some males accused of Title IX violations at Point Park received in contrast to the treatment allegedly levied against Newman. For example, the amended complaint states, males accused of Title IX violations were not suspended from teaching duties pending investigation as Newman was.

“Point Park University denies the allegations of wrongdoing – including any suggestion of anti-Semitism – contained in the amended complaint and will vigorously defend itself,” a university spokesperson said in a written statement to the Chronicle. “To this end, the motion filed by the University’s lawyers asks the court to dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety for failure to state a viable claim against the University.

“Out of respect for the legal process, and for Dr. Newman, neither Point Park nor its lawyers will be making any further public comment at this time,” the statement continued. “We do, however, want to assure you that Point Park is an inclusive community where there is no place for discrimination or hatred of any kind.”

Newman has until May 18 to respond to the motion to dismiss.

“We will vigorously attempt to keep all counts in the complaint,” said Newman’s attorney, James Lieber. “We feel strongly that the case has merit.” PJC

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at ttabachnick@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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