campus beat

New York Gov. Hochul announces $3 million for campus safety initiative

The threat assessment and management teams will operate on college campuses throughout the state.

Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul speaks onstage at the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York on September 19, 2023 in New York City.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a four-pillar plan on Tuesday to keep New Yorkers safe from “extremism and violence,” including $3 million in additional funding to ensure that every college campus in New York State has a threat assessment and management (TAM) team, amid rising antisemitism since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel. 

“Since Oct. 7, there’s been a 400% increase in threats against Jews, Muslims and Arabs,” Hochul said during a press conference. “My No. 1 priority has been, and will continue to be, protecting the safety of our residents.” 

Hochul called the plan “comprehensive and far-reaching.” She said it will include “strengthening physical security of locations, making the digital world safer by identifying credible online threats, calling out social media companies who have failed their responsibility to create a safe public square and creating resources and toolkits for parents and schools alike.” 

Hochul said that social media companies are responsible for providing a platform for the most extreme threats. “[TAM teams are] not here to penalize anyone for their political views,” she said. “They have a simple goal, to find out what’s driving hateful behavior and intervene early before harm is done. And to give people who are being radicalized online an off-ramp. They work with mental health professionals, establish reporting systems, so classmates and others can raise red flags and train adults on how to spot the warning signs,” Hochul said, adding that she has “called out the leadership of every major social media company to express not just my indignation, but to demand that they take concrete action to reduce the sickening hate that is being spread on their sites.” 

“We know that social media is an emotion amplifier. If the emotion is love, and that’s amplified, that is a good dynamic,” she continued. “If the emotion is hate, and that’s amplified, that’s the chaos that we’re falling into today. It can also amplify the hate that just boils up from this toxic stew of ignorance, and it becomes festered online.” 

Hochul said TAM teams will manage online threats, noting that there are currently 36 county-based TAM teams. The initiative, she said, was launched last year after a mass shooting by a white supremacist at a Buffalo supermarket. 

The crackdown on online threats to college campuses comes weeks after a Cornell University student posted messages online threatening a mass shooting targeting Jewish students. 

Hochul on Tuesday also authorized the director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to “develop media literacy tools for K-12 in our public schools.”

“This will teach students, and even teachers, to help understand how to spot conspiracy theories and misinformation, disinformation and online hate,” she said. “Start talking about what we’re seeing out there. Give the teachers the tools they need to help these conversations in school. And by teaching younger New Yorkers about how to discern between digital fact and digital fiction, we can better inoculate them from hatred and the spread of it and help prepare them for a very fast moving and often confusing world.”

Sheikh Musa, a Muslim community organizer, and UJA-Federation of New York CEO Eric Goldstein also spoke at the conference. “The governor is addressing all of the key areas that are the primary causes of the current crisis,” Goldstein said. “And we have a crisis today. In New York City alone, in the month of October NYPD reported a 214% increase in antisemitic hate crimes.” 

Goldstein said security is the first way to address the issue. “The governor has been incredible in providing [security] resources to our over 2,000 Jewish communal institutions in New York,” he said. 

Since Oct. 7 and the subsequent increase in antisemitism, Hochul has distributed $50 million for local law enforcement agencies to prevent and solve hate crimes and other crimes and $25 million in security funding for at-risk community groups and cultural centers. New York State, which is home to the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, also launched a new telephone hotline and online form allowing New Yorkers to report hate and bias incidents directly to the Hate and Bias Prevention Unit. 

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