University ignored anti-Semitism on its campus, Dept of Ed. investigation finds
The Department of Education released the results of an investigation into the University of Vermont, which found that it failed to investigate the harassment of Jewish students.
One incident that launched the Department's investigation is a teaching assistant allegedly suggesting that they would give Jewish students lower grades for expressing pride in their heritage.
The Department of Education’s (DOEd) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the results of an investigation into the University of Vermont (UVM), which found that the university did not sufficiently respond to allegations of anti-Semitism.
The DOEd announced in an Apr. 3 press release that UVM’s “Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (AAEO) Office declined to investigate … serious allegations of harassment” of Jewish students. UVM, the press release continues, delayed its response to the allegations, did not address its hostile environment, and “may have discouraged students and staff from raising further concerns.”
The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), an organization that “engages in research, education, and legal advocacy to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism,” filed the complaint against UVM in 2021.
Among the incidents described in the complaint is an unidentified teaching assistant (TA) allegedly suggesting that they would give Jewish students lower grades for expressing pride in their heritage. In a series of tweets, they asked whether it is unethical “to not give [z]ionists credit for participation,” including a point reduction for students who went on a birthright trip to Israel.
The complaint claims that UVM did not respond to the incidents, creating a “hostile environment” and violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. LDB writes that Title VI “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in educational institutions that receive federal funding.”
Following the complaint, a Sept. 2022 statement from UVM claims that media coverage of OCR’s investigation “painted [its] community in a patently false light” and “has been harmful to UVM.”
The statement responds to the incidents in LDB’s complaint, including the social media posts from the TA. “The university took prompt action to ensure that the objectionable statements did not adversely impact students in the classroom and further, to perform a thorough review to ensure all grades were awarded on a non-discriminatory basis,” the statement reads.
OCR disagrees, and DOEd’s press release notes that UVM’s AAEO Office received complaints but failed to investigate them. A resolution between UVM and OCR will require the university to review its policies and ensure that they protect Jewish students by addressing “national origin harassment on the basis of shared ancestry.”
UVM, the press release says, must also “[i]ssue a statement with a commitment to address discrimination … within 30 days of the signing of the agreement.”
A university statement sent to Campus Reform says that UVM’s “voluntary resolution” with OCR will “make its commitment even more tangible to the campus community moving forward.”
Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.