The Department of Education has opened investigations at six colleges and universities for alleged Title VI shared ancestry violations relating to antisemitism, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab discrimination since the outbreak of the war in Palestine and Israel.
The schools the Department is currently investigating for engaging in discrimination are Lafayette College (Penn.), Cornell University (N.Y.), Columbia University (N.Y.), Wellesley College (Mass.) and the University of Pennsylvania. Among the six institutions and one K12 school district, five possessed complaints alleging antisemitic harassment and two alleged anti-Muslim harassment.
Since campuses across the nation caught fire surrounding the Oct. 7 attack and its aftermath, Cornell University has been a notable flashpoint, canceling classes on Nov. 3 due to “extraordinary stress” due to antisemitic threats, The Hill reports. On the other hand, the Department’s probe at Lafayette is less evident to its school leaders. Regardless, they have agreed to cooperate fully, and they “maintain a firm stance against antisemitism, Islamophobia and hate speech of any kind,” The Washington Post reports.
A Jewish civil advocacy group alleges that the U-Penn and Wellesley have allowed antisemitism to “run rampant” on its campuses and have failed to respond to the harassment adequately, CNN reports.
“There’s been a lot of talk about rooting out anti-Semitism on campuses, and it’s time to hold these colleges accountable,” said Kenneth Marcus, founder and chairman of the Brandeis Center.
But school communities outside these six have also experienced their fair share of protests—and violence. One Jewish student at Tulane University (La.) suffered a broken nose after attempting to grab an Israeli flag that protestors tried to burn.
The Department’s Office for Civil Rights sent out a letter to schools reminding them of their legal obligation to “take immediate and effective action” in response to harassment that precludes a student from fully engaging in school-related programs and activities.
The different forms of shared ancestry discrimination OCR holds institutions responsible for shielding students from include slurs, stereotypes and discrimination based on one’s physical characteristics that reflect their culture, foreign accent, name or their speaking of a foreign language.
“It is your legal obligation under Title VI to address prohibited discrimination against students and others on your campus—including those who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab or Palestinian—in the ways described in this letter,” wrote Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights, in the letter.