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Jewish students gather in DC to demand national reporting system for campus antisemitism

“In the face of a surge in antisemitic bias and discrimination—we believe it is critical we provide unqualified support for Jewish students to live free from fear,” wrote Rep. Nancy Mace.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) speaks at a press conference she convened about new regulation on reporting antisemitic incidents on campus outside the U.S. Capitol on March 19, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Olami.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) speaks at a press conference she convened about new regulation on reporting antisemitic incidents on campus outside the U.S. Capitol on March 19, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Olami.

Jewish students and leaders met with members of Congress on Tuesday to demand new civil-rights regulations that would require universities to report antisemitic incidents to the U.S. Department of Education.

Rabbi David Markowitz, executive vice president of the Olami campus organization, told JNS that there’s a disconnect between the ways that universities and the department handle complaints of antisemitism under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color or national origin.”

“The universities are obligated to uphold Title VI, but actually have no accountability or transparency to the Office of Civil Rights,” Markowitz said. “When somebody experiences antisemitism, the university is responsible to go make that change, but when they receive a complaint about it, nobody knows if they received that complaint or if they dealt with it.”

Under current regulations, universities are not required to report complaints of antisemitism to the Office of Civil Rights. Students can submit a complaint directly to the office and will receive a transparent response, but the office’s investigation process can take years.

Joshua Jenkelow, a senior at Stanford University, explained at a press conference Tuesday that after an incident on campus, his university’s administration cycled him between different safety offices without addressing his complaint.

“It became abundantly clear that the whole system was dedicated to moving students from department to department until exhaustion eventually outweighed their fear,” he said.

Markowitz said that the Office of Civil Rights’ lack of jurisdiction over complaints submitted to universities was part of a “broken system.”

“All we’re doing is trying to connect the dots and thereby opening up the box about what’s happening,” he said.

The power to implement a new regulation on reporting antisemitic incidents on campus lies with the Department of Education but students get support from members of Congress, including Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who organized the press conference outside the Capitol on Tuesday and who has written to Miguel Cardona, the education secretary, urging him to adopt new regulations.

Nancy Mace
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Rabbi David Markowitz, executive vice president of the Olami campus organization at a press conference about new regulation on reporting antisemitic incidents on campus outside the U.S. Capitol on March 19, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Olami.

“In the face of a surge in antisemitic bias and discrimination—we believe it is critical we provide unqualified support for Jewish students to live free from fear,” Mace wrote. “We do not seek to dictate policies for handling these incidents, but rather allow for transparency and accountability of universities’ actions in mitigating antisemitic bias and discrimination.”

Mace said that universities that fail to comply with the new reporting standard should have their federal funding stripped.

“These reporting requirements would supplement, not replace, existing reporting systems within the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights,” she added, “and ensure postsecondary educational institutions document and take seriously any and all instances of antisemitic bias and discrimination.”

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