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June 15, 2021 5:41 pm

Two Mental Health Staffers Charge Stanford University With Fostering ‘Hostile Environment for Jews’ in Complaint

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The main quadrangle at Stanford University. Photo: King of Hearts / Wikimedia Commons.

A complaint filed by two Jewish mental health clinicians at Stanford University alleges that the school’s diversity trainings fostered a “hostile and unwelcoming environment for Jews,” according to a complaint seen by The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

The complaint was filed by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights with both the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (CDEFH). Employees Dr. Ronald Albucher and Sheila Levin charged Stanford with “pressuring” them into attending Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programming.

Those DEI programs, the Brandeis Center argued, “endorsed the narrative that Jews are connected to white supremacy” and promoted “antisemitic tropes concerning Jewish power, conspiracy, and control.”

The complaint also alleges that CAPS DEI committee members excluded Jewish history and antisemitism from conversations about bigotry and racism.

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Albucher was the Director of CAPS from 2008-2017, and has since worked as a CAPS staff psychiatrist while serving as professor of psychiatry at the university’s medical School. Levin, who no longer works at the university, served as the clinical care manager and eating disorder specialist at CAPS for the last 13 years.

In one incident the complaint described, after someone “zoom-bombed” a virtual town hall on May 16, 2020 with images of swastikas and the word ‘n*****,’ a DEI seminar about the incident highlighted its anti-black element but omitted “any mention of antisemitism.”

When Albucher asked for a reason, a DEI committee member told him the DEI Committee “decided to omit any mention of antisemitism so as not to dominate the discussion about anti-Black racism,” the complaint charged.

At a later DEI meeting, when Albucher again raised the issue, his colleagues accused him of “trying to derail the agenda’s focus” and not understanding that “unlike other minority groups, Jews can hide behind their white identity.”

Albucher and Levin also said their colleagues cited several “anti-Jewish stereotypes” as justification for not discussing antisemitism.

“These DEI committee members reasoned that because Jews, unlike other minority groups, possess privilege and power, Jews and victims of Jew-hatred do not merit or necessitate the attention of the DEI committee,” argued the Washington, DC-based Brandeis Center in the complaint.

It said that DEI programming required Jewish mental health clinicians to join “segregated ‘whiteness accountability’ affinity [groups], created for ‘staff who hold privilege via white identity’ and ‘are white identified … or are perceived as white presenting or passing.”

But, the complaint said, “no affinity group was ever created for members of Jewish ancestral identity” — and as a result, the Jewish employees were asked join the white affinity group, and identify as “white, powerful and privileged members of society who contribute to systemic racism.”

Speaking to The Algemeiner on Monday, Brandeis Center President Alyza Lewin called that demand “overly simplistic, and what I call a caricature of Jewish identity, which unfortunately, overlaps with antisemitic Jewish stereotypes.”

“Jewish identity is much more complex, and rich and nuanced,” she said. “Part of that is that Jews have historically also suffered discrimination and oppression.”

“I was placed in the white affinity group,” Sheila Levin told The Algemeiner, “based on the idea that I can hide behind my white identity … and I was very disturbed by this because my parents survived World War II in the UK, which ended eleven years before I was born, and people like us were murdered because we were seen as contaminants to the white race.”

“Not only did that feel like a betrayal to my heritage but to my parents,” she said.

CAPS urged the “attendance of as many ‘white clinicians’ as possible,” the Brandeis Center said in its complaint, and Levin was told that she had to participate in the white affinity group in order to be part of CAPS’ “collegial environment.”

Albucher argued that categorizing Jews as white could to “recycle” Jewish stereotypes.

“That the DEI committee, rather than being inclusive, is doing the opposite — it’s excluding — somehow it became acceptable for them to exclude Jews, because the assumption was that Jews are a privileged group,” he told The Algemeiner. 

A university spokesperson told The Algemeiner that “Stanford is deeply committed to nurturing a diverse and inclusive work environment, one free from harassment and discrimination of any kind. We take complaints of this nature very seriously. We followed our process and have an ongoing investigation into this matter. Stanford forcefully rejects anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

“Traditionally, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs at Stanford have been managed by individual units,” the spokesperson said. “As part of our long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and to ensure consistency in the approach across campus, we are launching a centralized DEI learning program this summer and fall aimed at recognizing and addressing bias and discrimination. The program is designed to build awareness, further establish inclusive behaviors, and foster a more inclusive mindset.”

The Brandeis Center’s Lewin argued that the university administrations must learn more about antisemitism to address it institutionally.

“Society in general doesn’t really understand antisemitism,” she told The Algemeiner. “Antisemitism is society’s oldest hatred but it’s one of the least understood hatreds, because it actually looks a little different in every generation.”

“If this is the program that is teaching the therapists and training the therapists who are going to be providing mental health care to students on campus,” she asked, “… how will they provide adequate or effective care to students on campus experiencing antisemitism?”

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