Former Assad Aide Chillin’ in the Village
After Columbia controversy, Sheherazad Jaafari is at The New School
Communiqué, the predictably named newspaper for Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, has an update this week to the story of Sheherazad Jaafari. A former aide to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Jaafari was admitted to Columbia last spring with the help of luminaries like Barbara Walters.
David Fine, a Columbia senior, friend of Tablet, and lapsed Dallas Cowboys fan, wrote about the controversy for Tablet over the summer:
Emails leaked last month revealed that Barbara Walters had helped Jaafari, Assad’s former aide and daughter of Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, gain admittance into Columbia’s graduate School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), a kind of finishing school for future diplomats. But the controversy at Columbia isn’t about what strings Jaafari pulled. It’s about the fact that she worked closely with the Syrian president for over a year to help him reach out to and spin foreign press as his regime murdered over 15,000 of its own people and tortured countless others.
News of Jaafari’s admittance shocked various Syrian expatriates, many of whom have been working to raise awareness of Assad’s atrocities in the United States. A petition calling for “Columbia University to adhere to general ethical principles and rescind admission to Jaafari,” has been signed by over 1,800 people. The Syrian Expatriates Organization, a group made up mostly of academics and engineers, released a statement demanding that Columbia revoke Jaafari’s admittance right after news of her acceptance broke. “We feel like accepting an adviser to Assad into a prestigious American university is like accepting a kind of partner to a killer,” Sawsan Jabri, a spokesperson for the expatriate organization, told me. (Columbia hasn’t responded to the organization, according to Jabri.)
As it turns out, Columbia did not rescind Jaafari’s admission, but she chose not to go. According to Communiqué, Jaafari is now enrolled downtown at The New School, where she seems to enjoy the college life in Greenwich Village.
A university spokesman, Sam Biederman, declined to comment on her enrollment, citing privacy, but said that The New School evaluates candidates on the basis of their merits.
After a recent class on a Monday evening for her Graduate Program in International Affairs, some of Jaafari’s classmates at The New School said they had no knowledge of complaints about her admission.
One student, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid her resentment, said that many classmates did not know she had worked for the Syrian government, but a rumor about her identity had been circulating since orientation week last September.
“There is more gossip than real opposition to her enrollment,” added this student.
There you have it. The New School evaluates candidates on the basis of their merits. Being press aide to Assad must have taught her a lot.
On the rise, Zvia Margaliot is a winning poetry slams and winning fans
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.