Dept. of Education

The Department of Education is turning a blind eye to antisemitism at American universities.

We’ve heard too many stories and studies of antisemitism at American universities over the past year, to the point where we’ve become numb to the shock.

One study found that diversity staffers charged with creating a welcoming space on campuses have instead used social media to bash Israel. Another study found that a high number of Jewish students have personally experienced antisemitism.

At USC, a “diversity senator” tweeted that she wanted to “kill every motherf***ing Zionist,” while Jewish CUNY, professors filed a lawsuit to break with an antisemitic faculty union. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

Some Jewish students actively speak out, but for every one who does, many others hide their identities, keeping their heads down and their mouths shut. Cowing Jewish students to silence is the real goal of antisemites and bigots.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) ought to be assisting and protecting Jewish students from antisemitism.

In 2019, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order to include Jews in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin at colleges and universities that receive federal funding.

That order also directed government officials to give weight to the working definition of antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) when adjudicating Title VI antisemitism allegations.

Unfortunately, the OCR has not completed Title VI investigations of antisemitism dating back to 2018, an astonishing four-year backlog that includes cases predating Trump’s executive order.

It’s not clear why the OCR did nothing during the remainder of Trump’s term or during the current Biden administration, which never reversed the executive order. It’s clearly not an issue of bureaucratic inertia.

Is it discomfort with embracing IHRA’s definition of antisemitism? A difficulty with reconciling Jews as a minority protected by Title VI? Are cases involving black, Hispanic and LGBT students getting priority?

We don’t need lip service about the evils of antisemitism or lofty statements about equality, education and diversity. Investigating Jewish complaints and giving IHRA’s definition due consideration is enough. The OCR must demonstrate its commitment to protecting the civil rights of Jewish students.

Demand the Office of Civil Rights take action.

Contact Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon via the OCR website.