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Congress members urge OCR to speed up handling of anti-Jewish complaints on campus

A letter to the U.S. Department of Education cited a survey by Alums for Campus Fairness that found 75% out of 500 alumni and current students said that anti-Semitism continues to be a serious problem.

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Credit: Lucky Photographer/Shutterstock.
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Credit: Lucky Photographer/Shutterstock.

A group of mostly Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) on Feb. 4 urging the department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to take concrete measures to better address rising anti-Semitism on college campuses.

The letter, led by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and signed by 39 members of Congress, acknowledged that anti-Semitism was a growing threat to university students and that the department has been slow to address formal complaints of anti-Semitism.

The letter cited a recent survey by Alums for Campus Fairness that found 75% out of 500 recent alumni and current students indicated that anti-Semitism continues to be a very serious problem on campus and 70% said they avoided certain places, events or situations because they were Jewish. Nearly half of the respondents said they believed that anti-Semitism on campus is getting worse and that students need assistance and protection.

The letter was addressed to OCR’s assistant secretary Catherine Lhamon. It called for OCR to provide technical assistance on the issue of campus anti-Semitism either through the creation of an Outreach, Prevention, Education & Nondiscrimination (OPEN) Center within the department to deal specifically with the issue or provide direct assistance to universities, colleges, Jewish students and faculty about civil-rights protections they are afforded.

It also requested that OCR provide the members with a list of all open Title VI complaints that have not been resolved for more than 180 days since filing and include the reasons for the time frame, citing complaints of delays. They noted that some complaints filed as early as 2018 have yet to be resolved.

“After a year with historic levels of anti-Semitism, we ask that the administration re-prioritize the rulemaking process for Title VI and ensure it remains a priority as opposed to a long-term action,” the letter stated. “These delays in processing Title VI complaints are delaying justice and potentially allowing discrimination to persist on campuses throughout the country.”

StandWithUs expressed appreciation to Lieu for spearheading the letter. In a news release on Wednesday, the watchdog group said it had two outstanding complaints with OCR, including one more than two years old.

“This initiative sends a clear message that our elected officials are concerned about rising anti-Semitism in the educational context and are being vigilant to ensure that federal taxpayer dollars are not used to support entities that fail in their responsibilities to adequately remedy anti-Semitic environments,” it wrote.

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