(October 1, 2020 / JNS) New York University has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) following a complaint filed on behalf of a student that cited multiple anti-Semitic incidents on campus, the first agreement since U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order last December that designated anti-Semitism as a form of discrimination under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Jewish Insider first reported on Wednesday on the settlement, which NYU agreed to on Sept. 15.
Terrence Nolan, NYU’s senior vice president, general counsel and secretary, signed the agreement, as did Timothy Blanchard, director of the Education Department’s New York office.
The agreement—highlighted in a Sept. 25 letter from Blanchard to attorneys Joel Siegal and Neal Sher, who filed the complaint on behalf of current alumnus Adela Cojab—requires the university, by Sept. 30, to revise its “Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy” to “include a statement that the university prohibits discrimination on the bases of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitism” in accordance with the executive order, which requires U.S. government agencies to consider the widely-accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.
The “Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy” has yet to be updated to include anti-Semitism as a form of discrimination.
It also requires the university to “take appropriate action to address and ameliorate discrimination and harassment based on shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitism that involves student clubs; issue a statement by the president of the university that the university does not tolerate acts of discrimination or harassment on the basis of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitism.”
The university pledged to take disciplinary action against students who violated the policy.
Additionally, the resolution mandates that NYU, by Oct. 31, “will continue its practice to meet with student club leaders” in which the university “will express its commitment to take all necessary actions, including pursuant to its student discipline process where appropriate, to address and ameliorate discrimination and harassment based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitism.”
The settlement is the result of an investigation the Education Department opened into NYU in November in the aftermath of anti-Semitic incidents, such as two members of anti-Israel groups at NYU who were arrested for actions at an Israeli Independence Day party in April 2018 that included setting an Israeli flag on fire and also physically assaulted a celebrant who was singing Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah.”
In December 2018, a student tweeted that he wanted “all Zionists to die,” which led to the closure of NYU’s Hillel for nearly 48 hours. NYU informed OCR of complaints of additional anti-Semitic incidents from the 2017-18 and 2019-20 academic years.
“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Education has decided to end its review without finding any wrongdoing by NYU. NYU has long been understood as a place that is welcoming to and supportive of members of the Jewish community,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman told Jewish Insider. “For that reason, the university has gladly agreed to several steps that would bolster our longstanding commitment to opposing and responding to anti-Semitism.”
Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, said in a statement that the agreement confirms the importance of the Executive Order.
“This is an extraordinary development, a victory for all Jews and a defeat of anti-Semitism that will undoubtedly improve the climate on NYU’s campus,” she said. “Other universities that are serious about combating anti-Semitism should follow suit and similarly incorporate the IHRA working definition into their university policies.”
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