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Washington - Feds Agree To Investigate Complaint Against Rutgers Over Anti-Semitic Harassment

Published on: December 3, 2011 06:45 PM
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Washington - The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating the formal complaint filed by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), alleging that Jewish students at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, have been subjected to anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Title VI requires that recipients of federal funding (such as Rutgers) ensure that their programs and activities are free from racial and ethnic discrimination, or risk losing their federal funding.

The government probe will investigate the ZOA’s charges that the Outreach Coordinator for Rutgers’ Center for Middle East Studies harassed a Jewish student by physically threatening him and by posting anti-Semitic comments about him on Facebook.  The Outreach Coordinator referred on Facebook to the Jewish student as “that racist Zionist pig!!!!!!!!”  and encouraged others to “put his name in fb [Facebook] search . . .  he has a fb hate page” – as if celebrating that there was a Facebook page with hateful comments about the Jewish student, and encouraging others to find it so that they could read the comments and post their own hateful messages.

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OCR will also investigate the ZOA’s charge that this same Jewish student was physically threatened on Facebook.  One Facebook posting said, “As I was reading the . . . [Jewish student’s] column [in the Rutgers student paper] this morning, I realized how Im [sic] a pretty angry person.  Id [sic] be happy to see him beat [sic] with a crow bar.  Violence doesnt [sic] solve problems but it shuts up people who shoudnt [sic] speak.”  At least seven of the writer’s Facebook friends clicked “like” on this message, indicating their approval of the violent threat.  One responded with a threat of his own.  The Jewish student sought police protection and removed his contact information from the Rutgers directory.  He also filed a bias incident report with the Dean of Students, which the university is supposed to respond to within 24 hours.  But no one from the university contacted the Jewish student until more than a month after he filed his bias report.  When the student was finally contacted, the Dean of Students informed him that there were insufficient grounds to formally charge the student who threatened him.  The offender was simply given a warning, even though Rutgers’ Student Code of Conduct specifically states that threatening to use force against another person is prohibited and could lead to suspension or expulsion from the university.

OCR is also investigating whether a vicious anti-Israel student group called BAKA (an acronym for “Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action”) discriminated against Jewish students at one of its anti-Israel events entitled “Never Again for Anyone.”  The event was advertised as free and open to the public.  But when a large number of Jews and Israel supporters showed up at the event, the admissions policy was abruptly changed and a mandatory admission fee was imposed, in violation of university policy prohibiting false advertising.  According to witnesses, the fee was selectively enforced:  Those perceived to be friendly to BAKA’s cause were observed being admitted to the event for free, while those perceived to be Jewish and pro-Israel were charged.

Prior to filing its Title VI complaint, the ZOA tried informally to rectify the problems that Jewish students were facing at Rutgers.  The ZOA sent two letters to Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick, detailing the problems and proposing several steps that Rutgers should consider taking to comply with its obligations under Title VI.  Jewish students at Rutgers also made their own efforts to resolve the campus problems, reaching out to and meeting with university officials to seek solutions to the hostilities they were being subjected to.  These efforts were fruitless.

Morton A. Klein, ZOA National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, praised the Office for Civil Rights for opening an investigation into the ZOA’s Title VI complaint and examining Rutgers’ response to campus anti-Semitism:  “Rutgers is a fine institution, but Jewish students there have faced anti-Semitic hostility that is simply unacceptable.  Fortunately, after a six-year campaign led by the ZOA, these Jewish students now have the same legal recourse that other ethnic and racial groups have had for close to 50 years, since Title VI was enacted in 1964.  Title VI investigations on behalf of Jewish students are also in progress at UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz, and Columbia University.  We strongly praise OCR for recognizing that the harassment, intimidation and discrimination that Jewish students have been subjected to at Rutgers merits the government’s scrutiny.  We urge the agency to thoroughly and vigorously investigate Rutgers’ response to campus anti-Semitism; the ZOA will assist in any way we can, so that Jewish students there will be assured the kind of campus environment that every student deserves – one that is physically and emotionally safe and conducive to learning.”



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