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June 2, 2019 3:38 pm

San Francisco State University Begins Complying With Terms of Settlement in Antisemitism Suit

avatar by David Gerstman

The quad at San Francisco State University. Photo: Michael Ocampo.

San Francisco State University has begun complying with the terms of a March landmark legal settlement protecting the rights of Jewish students, though questions remain as to how it will affect the atmosphere on campus.

Due to the settlement, which addressed two lawsuits alleging antisemitic discrimination at SFSU, “the university has an obligation and the proper mechanism to address antisemitism for the first time in its history,” said Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, which represented the plaintiffs alongside Winston & Strawn LLP.

California State University has already paid a contribution toward litigation expenses, as required by the terms of the settlement, while its lawyers are in contact with The Lawfare Project “to ensure that the university fulfills its obligation to issue a statement affirming that Zionism is an important part of Jewish identity,” Goldstein said.

Professor Marc Dollinger of SFSU’s Jewish Studies department also confirmed to The Algemeiner that his committee was making progress on hiring the school’s first Coordinator of Jewish Student Life.

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Dollinger said the recent announcement that Lynn Mahoney, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs for California State University, Los Angeles, will take over as SFSU’s new president in mid-July “is also exciting and hopeful for the future.”

While Goldstein expressed satisfaction that “Jewish students will have access to institutional support when they are victims of antisemitic or anti-Zionist bigotry” in the future, she cautioned that “there is still a lot of work to be done at SFSU to make the campus safe for all Jewish students.”

Less than two weeks ago, a swastika with the message “Free Palestine” was found on campus by Daniel Yeluashvili, a senior who said it wasn’t the first time he encountered antisemitism at the school. “I’ve had experiences where my classmates call Jews cheap, glare at me when I wear a Star of David necklace, and hiss when I say the word, ‘Israel,’ in a class discussion,” Yeluashvili said.

He expressed skepticism over some of the settlement terms, telling The Algemeiner, “Jews and Zionists don’t need to stand out on campus, only to be treated like everyone else. Standing out contributes to the perception that we’re asking for special treatment.”

“There seems to be a perception on campus that Zionists control the establishment,” added Yeluashvili, who did not believe much had changed yet, “aside for more muted, hidden expressions of antisemitism by students.”

University spokesperson Kent Bravo told The Algemeiner following the swastika incident that the annual “number of reported incidents of bias or discrimination based on religious identity, including Jewish identity, is extremely low.”

“[There] are no evident patterns of increasing or decreasing incidence,” he said. “However, as an institution committed to equity, inclusion and social justice, San Francisco State University takes all reported cases of discrimination and bias seriously.”

“While we believe the hand-drawn swastika found on campus is an isolated incident, the University is deeply concerned and is currently investigating. Our overall goal is to cultivate a campus climate where expressions of marginalization and dehumanization never occur, and the University is working continuously to achieve that.”

Charles Volk, one of the plaintiffs who sued SFSU over antisemitism, recalled in an op-ed on Wednesday how such hostility served to make “many other Jews and Zionists like me feel unsafe on an SFSU campus where our civil liberties have been under assault.”

Volk, who graduated from SFSU in 2017, said that participating in the lawsuit provided “a liberating feeling of having a platform for my voice to be heard, for my perspective to be considered and for my peers to be respected.”

He acknowledged recently hearing from friends on campus of “subtle, yet noticeable” positive changes in the campus climate, and expressed pride in have played “a part in a lawsuit that has made SFSU a safer campus for Jewish students.”

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