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Rose Ritch, USC

Rose Ritch quit a student a leadership position in 2020 after taking abuse for being Jewish and supporting Israel.

By Pesach Benson, United with Israel

The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced on Tuesday it is investigating the circumstances of a Jewish student leader’s resignation in 2020 in the face of harassment she faced over her Jewish identity and support for Israel.

Rose Ritch, was vice president of the university’s Undergraduate Student Government. But Ritch quit the position after facing harassment and bullying.

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigation was launched after the Louis Brandeis Center filed a complaint with the Department of Education on Ritch’s behalf.

According to the complaint, USC, a private university, allowed a hostile antisemitic environment on campus and failed to protect Ritch in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs and institutions that receive federal funding. In 2019 the Trump administration expanded the law to include antisemitic discrimination.

Ritch was “the victim of a concerted campaign of anti-Semitic harassment that targeted her on the basis of her shared ancestral and ethnic characteristics and sought to exclude her from the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) on account of her Jewish identity,” said the complaint.

“I’m very grateful that after the two years [since resigning], OCR is opening up this investigation,” Ritch told the Jewish Journal. “Obviously this isn’t an issue that is a one-off thing or a rarity … I hope this is something that is able to show students that there are people looking out for you, that your rights should be protected and that this behavior is not acceptable.”

While campaigning for vice president, Ritch’s campaign posters and the posters of other Jewish candidates were vandalized and ripped down. She also faced bullying and frequent abuse on social media. Students even launched impeachment proceedings against her after the election because she was Jewish and supported Israel.

But the USC administration ignored calls by Ritch and Jewish students to intervene, according to the complaint. The impeachment proceedings were quietly suspended — on procedural grounds — but the underlying climate of bigotry remained unaddressed.

After Ritch’s resignation, USC released a statement condemning antisemitism, but the Brandeis Center accused the administration merely trying to protect itself.

“USC failed to intervene; failed to speak out publicly in support of Ms. Ritch; failed to condemn or ever acknowledge the harassment that targeted her; and failed to void the baseless impeachment complaint filed against her. Through its silence and inaction, the University tolerated the discriminatory harassment directed at Ms. Ritch,” the complaint said.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Ritch graduated from USC in 2021 and now works as a development associate for AIPAC.

The federal probe is the second time this year USC has been in the spotlight for antisemitism. Yasmeen Mashayekh a “diversity, equity and inclusion senator” posted several inflammatory statements against Israel and Jews on Twitter and other social media.

Only because of pressure on the administration, that Mashayekh was removed from that position and USC began taking some steps to address campus antisemitism.