School of the Art Institute of Chicago Accused of Antisemitism in Lawsuit by Art Therapy Student

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been hit with a lawsuit for engaging in “pervasive and severe antisemitic harassment and discrimination under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”

On December 22, the suit was filed by the Chicago and Newport Beach–based firm Much in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by art therapy master’s student Shiran Canel, who alleges that assistant professor Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi assigned her and classmates to respond to images allegedly drawn by Palestinian children that depicted “Israeli soldiers engaged in brutal violence,” reported the Jewish News Syndicate.

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“It also required the students to answer a second prompt about child sexual assault that involved artwork using Hebrew-language text bubbles (thereby suggesting the sex offenders were Israeli subjects),” the firm told JNS. “The new final assignment gratuitously incorporated inflammatory content uniquely targeted at Shiran in apparent retaliation for previous complaints she raised about persistent and severe antisemitism.”

After learning that Canel intended to file a temporary restraining order in federal court to stop the school from assigning offensive material, SAIC reportedly retracted the anti-Israel assignment. The professor, however, allegedly continued to engage Canel in discussions about the material, made changes to the grading rubric that would impact Canel’s marks, and solicited hostile and discriminatory feedback from classmates on Canel’s presentations.

Canel has reportedly faced continued harassment and discrimination from faculty and students since the October 7 Hamas attack. Despite voicing safety concerns, the school did not respond to Canel’s email requests.

A Muslim student was also allegedly permitted to stop collaborating with Canel on an assignment.

Canel has personal ties to the school, with a father-in-law who serves as a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, according to the New York Post. Additionally, according to the museum’s website, she, her husband, and her in-laws contributed to the purchase of Gerrit van Honthorst’s early 17th-century painting A Boy Blowing on a Firebrand.

In a statement provided to Fox 32, SAIC said it “strongly condemns antisemitism and any discrimination based on religion, nationality, or any other aspect of a person’s identity. 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.”


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