Brown University Agrees to Harassment Reforms

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Alumnae Hall, Brown University (Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel)

Following allegations of antisemitic and anti-Muslim discrimination on campus, Brown University and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) have agreed to a resolution that ensures the institution complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“I commend Brown University for assessing its own campus climate and undertaking responsive reforms to comply with Title VI, in addition to the terms it agrees today to undertake in response to OCR’s investigation,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in a press release. “OCR looks forward to work[ing] with the university to ensure a nondiscriminatory learning environment for its Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, and Palestinian students and students of all other backgrounds.”

From October 2023 to March 2024, the university received around 75 reports of harassment, including antisemitic, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Muslim actions. However, the university’s response was mostly limited to acknowledging the reports, listing support resources, and requesting meetings with complainants, which OCR found insufficient given the severity of some incidents.

OCR’s investigation noted that while Brown had implemented several measures to promote a nondiscriminatory environment, such as updating policies in February 2024, providing Title VI training in January 2024, and conducting workshops on antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate, there were still concerns about how the university responded to incidents of shared ancestry discrimination.

The review by OCR suggested that the university may have postponed taking thorough action on harassment reports, depending on whether complainants responded to their outreach. This approach misapplies Title VI, which obliges universities to independently assess whether a hostile environment exists once they are aware of potential discrimination.

In response to the OCR’s findings, Brown has revised its practices to address campus climate issues, focusing on key priorities such as community safety, fostering an inclusive environment, providing care to affected individuals, and strongly opposing all forms of discrimination.

The resolution agreement requires Brown to further revise its policies, conduct annual nondiscrimination training, maintain detailed records of discrimination reports, review past responses to complaints, and analyze climate survey results to ensure compliance with Title VI.