update deskSchools & Higher Education

UC Berkeley sued for failure to stop spread of antisemitism on campus

The lawsuit claims that harassment against Jewish students violates federal civil-rights laws.

One of the campus buildings at the University of California, Berkeley. Credit: Max Pixel/Creative Commons.
One of the campus buildings at the University of California, Berkeley. Credit: Max Pixel/Creative Commons.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law has filed suit against the regents of the University of California system, University of California, Berkeley, as well as the school’s president, chancellor and provost.

The claim states that it “targets the longstanding, unchecked spread of anti-Semitism at the University of California Berkeley, which, following the October 7 Hamas attacks, has erupted in on-campus displays of hatred, harassment, and physical violence against Jews.”

The suit claims that “court intervention is now needed to protect students and faculty and to end this anti-Semitic discrimination and harassment, which violates University policy, federal civil-rights laws, and the U.S. Constitution.”

Kenneth L. Marcus, the founder and chairman of the Brandeis Center, said Berkeley’s antisemitism problem began before the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack and “is a direct result of Berkeley’s leadership repeatedly turning a blind eye to unfettered Jew-hatred. The school is quick to address other types of hatred, but why not anti-Semitism?”

He challenged Berkeley’s reputation as “a beacon” of human rights, saying it is now on a “different and dangerous” path than his experience there when he was a law student.

“Making Jews renounce that core component of their identity to participate in a student organization is no different than asking members of the LGBTQ community to remain ‘in the closet’ as the cost of membership—a cost that is not imposed on other students who are free to participate fully in those organizations without disavowing or hiding their identities,” said Rachel Lerman, vice chair and general counsel at the Brandeis Center and a graduate of UC Berkeley Law School.

UC Berkeley Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky supported concerns about the university’s rising antisemitism. He wrote that “never in my life have I seen or felt the antisemitism of the last few weeks.”

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