NEW YORK – US federal authorities have launched an investigation into alleged anti-Semitism at a New York state public college, lawyers for the complainants said Thursday, as a campus battle over Jewish identity and discrimination rages at American universities.
The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said it has launched a formal investigation into allegations against the State University of New York at New Paltz, known as SUNY New Paltz.
The allegation centers on claims by two Jewish students, one of whom is Israeli, that they were expelled from a sexual assault awareness group and were subjected to antisemitic harassment and threats because of their identity.
A complaint filed against the college in August alleged that the university administration was aware of the discrimination, but allowed the anti-Semitic atmosphere to fester.
According to the complaint, the discrimination and the school’s alleged negligence made the two students, both sexual assault survivors, feel unsafe on campus and made Jewish and Israeli survivors feel betrayed.
The complaint, filed with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, claims the university violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs receiving federal funding. Antisemitic discrimination was included as a Title VI violation in 2019 with an executive order from former US President Donald Trump. The order opened a new front for Jewish groups to protest campus discrimination.
The complaint states that Zionism and ties to Israel are an integral part of faith and identity for many Jewish students, therefore the persecution and demonization of Zionism amounts to discrimination. Much of the wider campus debate centers on the limits of free speech, and when anti-Zionism crosses into antisemitism.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights only investigates complaints it deems worthy of a thorough investigation. It has launched several investigations in response to similar complaints.
SUNY New Paltz responded by saying, “We condemn any attacks on SUNY students who are Jewish, and we will not tolerate anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation on campus. We do not comment pending investigation.”
Two advocacy groups, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jews on Campus, filed complaints on behalf of the students. The federal office informed the Brandeis Center of the investigation earlier this week.
The center tied the federal investigation to the Biden administration’s new initiative to combat antisemitism.
“The opening of this investigation by the Department of Education, not long since President Biden announced his national strategy to combat anti-Semitism, sends a clear and unequivocal signal to SUNY New Paltz as well as universities across the country that they are committed to anti-Semitism. Let’s take anti-Semitism. Zionists take discrimination and harassment seriously and they expect universities to take it just as seriously,” said Dennis Katz-Prober, director of legal initiatives for the Brandeis Center.
SUNY New Paltz is a well-known public college north of New York City with approximately 7,500 students.
The Brandeis Center has filed several other similar complaints against American universities, leading to a federal investigation into Brooklyn College in New York City – part of the City University of New York (CUNY) public college system – over allegations of antisemitism. is confused. Claims of inaction from students and faculty and its administration.
New Paltz is also a New York public college, but part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, which is under a different umbrella than the CUNY system in New York City.
There have been allegations of antisemitism at CUNY colleges, but very few at SUNY, the largest public college system in the US.
The issue of antisemitism came to the fore at CUNY last month after city law school graduates gave the commencement speech Which made the Jewish state a monster.
The speech sparked a national uproar, including calls to strip the college of public funding American lawmakers.