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Columbia University Suspends Head Of Psychiatry Over Tweet About Model

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Columbia University Suspends Head Of Psychiatry Over Tweet About Model

Jeffrey A. Lieberman, the Psychiatry department chair at Columbia University has been suspended following a tweet about a model.

In the tweet, Lieberman described South Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech as a 'freak of nature'.

Following the comments, Lieberman has been suspended from the university and also removed from his position at psychiatrist-in-chief at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

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Lieberman's Twitter account is no longer available but the tweet was shared to Gatwech's Instagram.

The tweet from Lieberman read, 'Whether a work of art or a freak of nature she's a beautiful sight to behold.'

Lieberman had retweeted a post that claimed Gatwech held a Guinness World Record for the 'darkest skin', a claim that both Gatwech and the world record committee refuted.

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Gatwech wrote that '@guinnessworldrecords stated that it does NOT monitor skin tones'.

There was significant backlash following the tweet, which Gatwech told NBC New York was 'straight up racism'.

She added, 'Coming from somebody with so much power, that was so disappointing.'

Following this, Lieberman was suspended on Wednesday, February 23, as stated in an email from senior staff at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York Presbyterian.

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The email read, 'We are writing to inform you that Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman has been suspended from his role as chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and removed as Psychiatrist-in-Chief at CUIMC/New York Presbyterian Hospital, effective immediately.'

Jeffrey A. Lieberman (Columbia University)
Jeffrey A. Lieberman (Columbia University)

A meeting was then held for faculty and staff on Wednesday afternoon, to discuss the situation and announce an interim chair in Lieberman's place.

Thomas Smith, the new acting director, and other leaders said in another email that day: 'We condemn the racism and sexism reflected in Dr. Lieberman’s tweet and acknowledge and share the hurt, sadness, confusion, and distressing emotions you may be feeling.'

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Prior to his suspension, Lieberman sent an email to his colleagues on Tuesday, February 22, in which he apologised for the tweet, per The New York Times.

In the email he said that he was 'deeply ashamed' of the tweet and of his 'prejudices and stereotypical assumptions'.

Lieberman described the tweet as 'racist and sexist'.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org 

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Featured Image Credit: Columbia University/@queen.nyakim/Instagram

Topics: News, US News, New York, Twitter

Shola Lee
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