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January 13, 2022 4:14 pm

‘Deeply Troubling’: Federal Commissioner Addresses Antisemitism Allegations in Stanford Diversity Trainings

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Hoover Tower and the entrance to Memorial Church at Stanford University. Photo: Frank Schulenburg.

A commissioner for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week addressed allegations that Stanford University’s diversity and inclusion trainings fostered a hostile work environment for Jews, calling them “troubling.”

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights filed a complaint in June with the EEOC, alleging in part that Stanford’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programming promoted tropes of Jewish power and forced two Jewish clinicians to join segregated discussion groups for white participants.

Addressing the controversy during a virtual panel on antisemitism in the workplace on Monday, EEOC Commissioner Andrea Lucas cued up a slide showing newspaper headlines about antisemitic incidents in various sectors of the workforce, saying, “The reporting has been nationwide on some of these issues, from the Wall Street Journal to The New York Times and a variety of other papers and newspapers.”

These incidents “include the referenced allegations, and deeply troubling ones, that the Brandeis Center has brought to light about Stanford’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program, which got coverage all the way up to The New York Times in opinion pieces on that situation, allegedly involving segregating Jewish employees in white affirming and white passing affinity groups, separated out from other individuals of color, dismissing allegations of Zoom bombings with swastikas, out of concern that it would draw attention away from anti-Black anti-racism concerns.”

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Lucas urged employers to prioritize “antisemitism in your anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and diversity trainings.”

“On the flip side, in addition to explicitly condemning antisemitism in DEI-related and anti-harassment related policies, you should carefully audit those policies,” she continued. “Make sure that the policies and trainings that are meant to encourage diversity and inclusion are actually inclusive for everyone and don’t end up inadvertently or perhaps ill-advisedly contributing to antisemitism in ways that can include assumptions and stereotypes about power or privilege.”

Kenneth Marcus, founder of the Brandeis Center and former head of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, touched on employment antisemitism issues in the same panel, saying, “disturbingly, some of the bias and hate incidents are appearing in the very the institutions that are intended to address hate and bias, that is to say, the [DEI] programs that are now mushrooming throughout higher education and throughout the workplace as a whole.”

A Jewish former employee of Stanford University, whose experiences were cited in the Brandeis Center’s complaint with the EEOC, told The Algemeiner last June that she “was placed in [a] white affinity group based on the idea that I can hide behind my white identity.” The incident, she said, “disturbed” her. “Not only did that feel like a betrayal to my heritage but to my parents,” she said.

Discussing similar complaints, Brandeis Center President Alyza Lewin told The Algemeiner at the time that such demands of Jewish employees are “overly simplistic, and what I call a caricature of Jewish identity, which unfortunately, overlaps with antisemitic Jewish stereotypes.”

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

A Stanford University spokesperson told The Algemeiner on Wednesday that an investigation into the allegations that spurred the Brandeis Center’s EEOC complaint yielded “no evidence of discrimination.”

“The investigator concluded that certain conduct made by individuals during a small number of sessions were in violation of Stanford’s Code of Conduct and policy prohibiting harassment,” she said. “While Stanford strongly believes that the exhibited behavior is not in violation of any legal standard, the investigator concluded that it was prohibited under Stanford’s applicable policies.”

“This lower threshold allows the university to intervene and address matters before they rise to the level of a legal violation and contributes to a better workplace,” the spokesperson added.

On Thursday, Lewin called on the university to take steps to prevent future harassment of Jewish employees, such as reforms to include Jewish identity and antisemitism in the university’s centralized DEI program

“Stanford can say it is committed to nurturing a diverse and inclusive work environment and that it rejects antisemitism, however actions speak louder than words,” she told The Algemeiner. “Barring serious corrective action, Stanford’s DEI programs risk continuing to foster a hostile and unwelcoming environment for Jews, and completely undermining the purpose for which Stanford’s DEI program was developed.”

Editor’s note: this article was updated with comments from Brandeis Center President Alyza Lewin

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