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February 9, 2022 4:00 pm
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US Lawmakers Call on Dept. of Education to End Delay of Campus Antisemitism Guidance

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Students and pedestrians walk through the Yard at Harvard University, after the school asked its students not to return to campus after Spring Break and said it would move to virtual instruction for graduate and undergraduate classes, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Thirty-nine members of the US Congress have urged the Department of Education to issue promised Title VI guidance to protect Jewish students from antisemitism on college campuses, and to resolve long-outstanding complaints of discrimination.

“Antisemitism has been on the rise in the United States and around the globe,” said the letter, sent Friday to the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in an effort led by Democrat Ted Lieu of California. “This wave of antisemitism has had a detrimental impact at many American colleges and universities.”

The letter noted reports of Jewish students increasingly concealing their identity and avoiding social activities or classes that may expose to them to antisemitic bullying and harassment. It also cited a recent survey by Alums for Campus Fairness in which 75% of 500 respondents said that antisemitism remains a “very serious problem.”

“This demonstrates that Jewish students need assistance and protection from the growing threat of antisemitism on American campuses,” said the letter.

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The lawmakers called on the Biden administration to quickly issue new rules based on the previous administration’s Executive Order on Combating Antisemitism (EO 13899), which directed the OCR to apply Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to complaints of antisemitic discrimination and base them on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.

The Biden administration has postponed action on EO 13899 until December 2022, and experts on Wednesday praised the lawmakers’ call to end the delay over its implementation.

“It’s good to see that so many members of Congress understand what’s going on at university campuses and are pushing the Biden administration to take action soon,” Kenneth Marcus, former Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights at OCR and founder the Louis D. Brandeis Center of Human Rights Under Law told The Algemeiner.

“The administration really can’t wait until the end of the year to signal its focus on this issue,” he said. “It’s understandable that the rule-making has been delayed given the limited bandwidth that the Department of Education has for formal regulations, but given how bad things have been on so many campuses, this is a bad time to make Jewish students wait so long to get guidance from the Biden administration.”

The Congressional letter also urged the OCR to provide technical assistance to campuses for the fight against antisemitism, and to address the apparent “significant delay” in handling a number of antisemitism and discrimination Title VI complaints — with some still unresolved since 2018.

Recent complaints with the Department of Education have focused on Stanford University, where Jewish professionals were allegedly assigned to segregated discussion groups for white members against their objections; and at Brooklyn College, where Jewish students were allegedly harassed and pressured into identifying as white in discussions around social justice.

“Harassment of Jewish students can’t be tolerated,” Marcus said. “And I don’t think we will get significant action from universities unless university administrators and general counsels unless the Biden administration makes clear that this is a priority. That’s something that shouldn’t take another year. It should happen tomorrow.”

The pro-Israel education nonprofit StandWithUs (SWU) said the Congressional letter “sends a clear message that our elected officials are concerned about rising antisemitism” in education.

“It is our sincere hope that the DOE will respond to this letter expeditiously and that this effort will lead to improved response time to these complaints,” SWU said in a statement Wednesday. “This, in turn, will lead to increased protection for Jewish and non-Jewish students who care about Israel, and Israeli faculty, staff, and students on campuses nationwide.”

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