Human Rights Groups File Complaint Against American University Over Anti-Semitic Incidents

Jewish students at the Washington DC-based American University have faced assaults, threats and harassment, as well as apparent indifference from campus authorities.

Jewish Americans

The Brandeis Center and Jewish on Campus filed a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on behalf of numerous Jewish students at American University (AU) who have been assaulted, threatened, harassed and intimidated in dormitories, classrooms, and campus spaces.

According to the complaint, AU was fully aware of the pervasive and hostile environment for Jewish students, and not only ignored it, in some cases, it chose to subject Jewish whistleblowers to harassment and disciplinary proceedings.

“Shamefully AU has repeatedly chosen to turn a blind eye to the anti-Semitism snowballing on its campus,” stated Brandeis Center chairman Kenneth L. Marcus. “Not only has the university failed in its legal obligation to protect Jewish students from illegal targeting and harassment, it is attempting to bully those brave enough to speak up. The university’s delinquency is reprehensible, and it only signals to the AU community there are no consequences for those who harass, threaten, assault or shun Jewish and Israeli students, emboldening those hostile to Jews even further.”

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) is currently investigating Brandeis Center and Jewish on Campus complaints filed against Wellesley College and SUNY New Paltz, as well as Brandeis Center's complaints filed against the University of Southern California, Brooklyn College, and the University of Illinois.

And the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee is investigating Harvard University for its failure to take action against a professor even after Harvard itself admitted the professor discriminated against Jewish Israeli students represented by the Brandeis Center.

The Brandeis Center also recently sued the University of California in federal court over UC Berkeley’s longstanding, unchecked spread of anti-Semitism. In response to a complaint filed by the Brandeis Center and Jewish on Campus, the Deptment of Education last year reached an unprecedented agreement with the University of Vermont to address anti-Zionist forms of anti-Semitism on its campus.

Marcus told the Boston Globe: “Harvard has not been willing on its own to take the type of action that is clearly required, so unfortunately more action is required from Congress, the courts, and perhaps the executive branch as well.” U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-S.C.) has launched an investigation into the handling of anti-Semitic incidents at Harvard and other elite universities. 

Brandeis Center President Alyza D. Lewin told Washington Jewish Week that "anti-Semitism is spreading like wildfire." She told the outlet that the Brandeis will work to ensure that Jewish students and faculty members will be given the support they need in the face of the growing hatred and harassment. 

DOE is investigating other colleges and universities over their response to anti-Semitic incidents. Among them are New Orleans's Tulane University. "Antisemitism and other forms of hate have no place at Tulane University," the university said. "We are proud to be home to a large Jewish population where students can feel safe to express their cultural and religious identities as Jews."

Union College in Schedectady NY is being investigated by the Department of Education after the government received complaints that it had failed to respond to anti-Semitic incidents in October and November 2023. Also, Santa Monica College in California received a letter from the DOE after its Associated Students' Inter-Club Council failed to install Students Supporting Israel as a campus club.

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American University United States. Alyza Lewin human rights academia