Growing Number of Colleges Face Federal Investigations for Antisemitism

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Within recent weeks, several more colleges and universities have come under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for potential violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, or shared ancestry.

The newest universities to be probed by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) include Muhlenberg College, Ohio State University, Temple University, and the University of Minnesota (UMN).

The investigation at UMN stems from a complaint filed in December alleging antisemitism at the university. The complaint, filed by professor Richard Painter and former regent Michael Hsu, centers on concerns regarding pro-Palestinian statements posted by faculty on an official university website. Specifically, Hsu and Painter cite a statement from the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies department, as well as five other incidents, including claims of antisemitism in the tenure process and an altercation at a rally involving a Jewish faculty member.

Meanwhile, Temple University is facing a complaint lodged by Zachary Marschall, editor-in-chief of the conservative news website Campus Reform, alleging the institution has not properly addressed antisemitism on its campus. Marschall highlighted two protests last year in which students were allegedly heard chanting pro-Palestine statements that could be perceived as antisemitic.

In total, the OCR is currently investigating 99 allegations of discrimination based on shared ancestry, with 51 new cases opened since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Of these, 33 involve higher education institutions.

The OCR’s role in these investigations typically involves collecting and analyzing evidence, conducting interviews, and potentially making site visits to determine if there has been a violation of civil rights laws.

While an investigation by the OCR does not imply a decision about the case, the potential consequences for institutions found to violate Title VI can be significant, including the loss of federal funding. However, such a measure has yet to be taken against any institution.