newsSchools & Higher Education

US investigating Chapman University over alleged Title VI violation

“Antisemitism continues to run rampant on college campuses,” said Kenneth Marcus, of the Brandeis Center.

Chapman University in Orange, Calif. Credit: Matt Gush/Shutterstock.
Chapman University in Orange, Calif. Credit: Matt Gush/Shutterstock.

The U.S. Department of Education opened a civil rights investigation of Chapman University, a private school in Orange, Calif., for allegedly failing to take action to protect Jews on its campus.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights announces new Title VI investigations—which probe alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for bias based on “shared ancestry,” including religious discrimination—weekly on Tuesdays. It hasn’t announced the investigation of Chapman, but the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which filed the complaint, confirmed the investigation to JNS.

“Antisemitism continues to run rampant on college campuses,” said Kenneth Marcus, founder and chairman of the Washington-based Brandeis Center and a former U.S. assistant secretary of education. 

“Too many universities are refusing to do what’s needed to address these civil rights violations,” Marcus told JNS.

Per the complaint, Chapman has allowed “unchecked” Jew-hatred on its campus. The school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine removed a Jewish student from its group “because of his shared Jewish ancestry,” and it made “heinous death threats against a different Jewish student,” according to the Brandeis Center.

Admission rebuffed

The Chapman chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine blocked a student, with what is described as a Jewish-sounding name, from attempting to join the group in October 2022, per a copy of the 24-page, Feb. 12 complaint—with nine pages of photos—that JNS viewed. The student was allegedly removed from the CSJP listserv, per the complaint.

When the student tried to join the group again after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack, he was again denied admission and entry to a teach-in event to which he tried to RSVP, per the Brandeis Center.

“This also happened with several other students who are Jewish or have Jewish-sounding names, who sought to attend the teach-in event but did not receive the confirmation needed for admission by CSJP and therefore were barred from attending,” per the Brandeis Center.

Death threats

On Nov. 12, a member of the Chapman chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine allegedly sent a death threat to one of the students, who were excluded from the group.

The student responded to a social media post from a CSJP member which called for “death to all Israelis who follow Zionism.” The other student asked the CSJP member if he wanted her dead. 

The CSJP member used several expletives and responded, “I want you and all Zionist trash bags dead.” The CSJP member “then allegedly sent her a barrage of harassing messages accusing her of not being a real Jew and alleging that ‘Zionism is terrorism,’” per the Brandeis Center complaint.

The student reported the threat to the school’s public safety department, which investigated the matter and concluded the CSJP member was not a threat and allowed him to move back into campus housing, per the Brandeis Center complaint. The complaint adds that the student has to live and study in fear at Chapman.

The same CSJP member kept posting anti-Israel messages on social media, per the complaint, and filmed himself on TikTok after Oct. 7 vandalizing a memorial on campus to the Israeli victims. The student also accused a Jewish student without evidence of stealing his Palestinian flag and threatened the student.

JNS sought comment from Chapman over the weekend.

The school describes itself as “not a Christian college, but a church-related school,” and “for 150 years throughout the formation of the academic institution, we have been connected with The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and since 2011, also with The United Church of Christ.”

“These particular churches give us a proud religious heritage, and value the dignity of all people and all religions,” it states.

There are a Hillel and a Chabad on the campus. Per Hillel, there are 550 Jewish students (7.2% of the student population) at Chapman. Fifty (2.3%) of the university’s 2,145 graduate students are Jewish, per Hillel. Chapman is also home to the Barry and Phyllis Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education, which per its site is “one of only a very few centers in the United States located in and supported by a private university.”

“It is imperative that federal officials enforce the law,” Marcus told JNS. “It is about time that the federal government is finally investigating Students for Justice in Palestine’s discriminatory activities.”

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