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October 1, 2020 9:08 am

New York University Reaches Settlement With US Department of Education Over Antisemitism Complaint, Pledges to Revise Anti-Discrimination Policies

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The New York University campus. Photo: Cincin12 via Wikimedia Commons.

Following a legal complaint filed last year over campus antisemitism, New York University has reached an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the US Department of Education to revise its Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.

In the resolution reached with the OCR, NYU said its updated policy would set “the procedures for addressing and responding to … incidents and complaints of anti-Semitism” and “include a description of the forms of anti-Semitism that can manifest in the University environment.”

It also pledged to “issue a statement to all University students, faculty, and staff stating that the University does not tolerate acts of discrimination or harassment on the basis of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitism.”

The policy will mandate “town hall meetings” on the subject; training of students, faculty, and staff in the issue of antisemitism; invitations to students to detail incidents of discrimination and harassment; collaboration with Jewish organizations on campus; and meetings with student club members to detail the policy.

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NYU vowed to take disciplinary action against students who violated the policy.

Furthermore, the university promised to report to the OCR on the implementation of the changes.

Attorney Neal Sher, one of the filers of the legal complaint, called NYU’s settlement with the OCR “groundbreaking,” saying he hoped it would “send an important message to all colleges and universities.”

Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, said in a statement, “This is an extraordinary development, a victory for all Jews, and a defeat of antisemitism that will undoubtedly improve the climate on NYU’s campus.”

Citing the OCR’s requirement that schools use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism when addressing the issue, she added, “Other universities that are serious about combating antisemitism should follow suit and similarly incorporate the IHRA working definition into their university policies.”

Judea Pearl — a UCLA professor and NYU alumnus — told The Jewish Journal that the settlement was “a milestone decision that will soon affect other campuses, such as USC and UCLA.”

“However,” he added, “I am afraid the victory will be short-lived, because the word Zionism is not mentioned explicitly in the agreement. This omission is a major mistake, inviting the Zionophobes to zigzag their way around the words and continue the harassments with impunity.”

The OCR opened the investigation into NYU in last November, with particular emphasis on the activities of the anti-Israel organization Students for Justice in Palestine.

The complaint that prompted the investigation was made on behalf of student Adela Cojab following an incident in April 2018 in which two members of anti-Israel groups at NYU were arrested for their actions at an Israeli Independence Day party, where they stomped on an Israeli flag and set it on fire and also physically assaulted a celebrant who was singing “Hatikvah.”

Cojab said at the time, “Here you have a clear instance of a minority community that shares ancestry being targeted and discriminated against with violent acts committed at their national celebration while singing their national anthem and their flag was burned.”

“The administration did not take steps to prevent the discriminatory attacks nor did they address the aggrieved community to prevent its reoccurrence,” she added.

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