campus beat

University of Illinois faces Title VI complaint over antisemitic incidents

The complaint, filed in March and announced Friday, addresses antisemitic activity on the campus going back to 2015

university of illinois

Raymond Cunningham

University of Illinois

A complaint has been filed with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign over the university’s handling of antisemitic activity on the campus dating back to 2015.

The complaint, first filed in March by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights and announced today, charges that university administrators have “simply not provided the community of pro-Israel, Jewish students with a discrimination-free academic environment.” Jewish Insider viewed excerpts of the filed complaint.

The school was also accused of having “failed to combat anti-Semitism as vigorously as it has combated other forms of bigotry on its campus prohibited by Title VI” after campus police acted within a day to arrest an individual who had hung a noose on the campus.

The university’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.

The complaint lists nearly a dozen incidents, including defacing and destroying property owned by Jewish fraternities and sororities on the campus, the repeated vandalism of the Chabad House’s menorah and the decision by a university vice chancellor to remove a Jewish student from the school’s elections commission over concerns regarding the student’s opposition to the BDS movement.

“Every time I consider doing something Jewish in public I have to think about who might see it,” University of Illinois senior Lauren Nesher told JI. “Will I get doxxed? Will I be endlessly harassed online like other students have been? Will I be attacked as others have been? There’s been property destruction, and swastikas on campus.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) said he understands students’ concerns.

“When you have an event here, an event there, you have an issue, and you need to address it,” Schneider told JI. “When you have a series of events, repeatedly and coming time and again, creating an environment where students feel that they can’t wear a Jewish star or yarmulke, can’t celebrate their passion for their faith or for their connections to the State of Israel without being verbally or in some cases physically attacked for it — it’s not an issue, it’s a real problem at that point. And it needs a response that goes across time and isn’t just at that one moment.”

An executive order signed in December 2019 added antisemitism as a form of discrimination prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The directive came in the place of stalled congressional legislation, and was modeled after guidance laid out by the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, which said that 14 groups, including Jews, “may not be denied protection under Title VI on the ground that they also share a common faith.”

In September, New York University settled a discrimination complaint with the OCR, the first settlement between a university and the OCR since the executive order was signed. The Department of Education does not comment on open cases.

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