Jewish students file civil rights complaint against American University

​Several Jewish students have filed an anti-Semitism complaint against American University with the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

Several Jewish students have filed an anti-Semitism complaint against American University in Washington, D.C. with the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. 

The complaint was filed by The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jewish on Campus on Jan. 17, and accused American University of being “fully aware” of a hostile environment for Jewish students and in some cases allegedly subjected “Jewish whistleblowers to harassment and disciplinary proceedings.”

One incident referenced in the complaint goes over how a Jewish Israeli student was allegedly spat on repeatedly by other students, with his piano recital flyer being vandalized with swastikas and “DEATH TO THE ZIONISTS HITLER WAS RIGHT.”

According to the complaint, doors of dorm rooms were marked with swastikas on October 19, 2023, with one of the students receiving a text from an unknown number that read “I know who you are, jew.” The students also allege that several bathrooms in the dorm were vandalized with swastikas and Nazi images.

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In one case on Nov. 6, a professor at American University allegedly showed pictures of pro-Palestinian protests during class, explaining how “meaningful and powerful they were for her.”

”When one of the photos showed a sign of a Star of David in a trash can with the caption, ‘Keep the world clean,’ in a very deliberate and noticeable way the professor stared at a Jewish student in the class to the point that many of the other classmates turned around to also stare at the student. The Jewish student left the class in tears,” the complaint states.

According to the complaint, the student told the American University Office of Diversity and Inclusion of the incident, but said no action was taken.

”The biased and hostile treatment of Jewish and Israeli students at AU is an inevitable result of the University fostering an environment where it is acceptable to degrade, shun, and marginalize these students – even inside the classroom - on the basis of their Jewish ancestral and ethnic identity and Israeli national origin,” the complaint states.

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In another incident, the complaint states that the university brought several students to a disciplinary hearing because they used “their phones to record individuals tearing down posters of Israeli hostages.”

Brandeis Center founder and chairman Kenneth L. Marcus, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights under the George W. Bush and Donald Trump Administrations, said that American University is ignoring anti-Semitism on campus.

“Shamefully AU has repeatedly chosen to turn a blind eye to the anti-Semitism snowballing on its campus,” Marcus said. “Not only has the university failed in its legal obligation to protect Jewish students from illegal targeting and harassment, it is attempting to bully those brave enough to speak up.  The university’s delinquency is reprehensible, and it only signals to the AU community there are no consequences for those who harass, threaten, assault or shun Jewish and Israeli students, emboldening those hostile to Jews even further.” Marcus testified recently before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce as well as before a Senate roundtable on the need for decisive action by universities to combat rising campus antisemitism.”

Campus Reform reached out to American University.