Friday, May 24, 2024

The Education Department announced investigations into six more colleges and universities on Tuesday, adding to a growing list of institutions that the agency is examining over complaints of campus discrimination.

The schools named by the department were Stanford, the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Washington-Seattle, Rutgers University in New Jersey and Whitman College in Washington State.

The investigations into some of the most prominent West Coast institutions come weeks after the Education Department opened similar inquiries into a number of elite East Coast schools, including Harvard, Cornell, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania.

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the department routinely investigates complaints against universities that report discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.

The agency regularly looks into Title VI complaints of all types against both smaller public school districts and large research universities, but clashes on college campuses since the outbreak of violence in Israel and Gaza have produced a flurry of new investigations since October.

As of this week, 21 of the 29 investigations the department has opened into postsecondary schools this year have come since the initial Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.

In a news release about the previous batch of investigations announced in November, the department described its efforts as part of a larger directive to “take aggressive action to address the alarming nationwide rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and other forms of discrimination and harassment on college campuses and in K-12 schools since the Oct. 7 Israel-Hamas conflict.”

As with other recent investigations, it was not immediately clear what incident produced the complaints to the department that spurred it to act. An agency spokesman declined to elaborate on the nature of any of the complaints on Wednesday, citing a policy against discussing pending investigations.

But since Oct. 7, a number of campus incidents and disputes have roiled many of the schools in question.

In November, Michael V. Drake, the president of the University of California, along with 10 of the university network’s chancellors, released a letter assailing antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric at campus protests.

“We write today to condemn the alarming, profoundly disappointing acts of bigotry, intolerance and intimidation we have seen on our campuses over these past several weeks,” the letter said.

Shortly after, hundreds of faculty members and students across the University of California wrote a letter calling for Richard Leib, the chairman of the university network’s Board of Regents, to resign over social media posts that the letter’s authors described as “dangerously one-sided” and alienating to Arab students and Palestinian activist groups.

At Stanford, more than 2,000 alumni have signed an open letter to the university’s leaders accusing them of failing to stem “the growing expressions of hate and persecution” against the university’s Jewish community.

Dee Mostofi, a spokeswoman for Stanford, said the university intended to “work cooperatively with the Office for Civil Rights in its investigation of this complaint.”

Last week, Representative Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey, sent a letter to the president of Rutgers criticizing a campus event for “providing a platform” for “well-known antisemites.”

Rutgers also briefly suspended the Newark chapter of the student bar association at Rutgers Law School in November after the association moved to oust an Orthodox Jewish member. And on Monday, the university suspended the New Brunswick campus’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that has been suspended at other schools including Columbia, over what its student leaders said were “nebulous and unsubstantiated complaints” and an “attempt to conflate protected speech activity with violence.”

A Rutgers spokeswoman said on Wednesday that the school was notified this week that the Education Department had opened an investigation into “alleged incidents of harassment in October and November 2023 of students on the basis of their national origin (shared Jewish ancestry and/or Israel).”

The spokeswoman, Dory Devlin, said the school would “certainly fully cooperate.”

Rutgers has the second-largest Jewish population of any U.S. public university, after the University of Florida, according to Hillel International, the world’s largest Jewish campus organization.

“I have spoken to Jewish students who feel unsafe,” said Gary L. Francione, a Board of Governors professor at Rutgers Law School.

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles