Duke University to tackle antisemitism on campus following ZOA complaint
(photo credit: FLICKR)
‘This will send out a message to the university community that antisemitism won’t be tolerated,’ says the ZOA’s Susan Tuchman.
A complaint filed by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) to the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) concerning campus antisemitism at Duke University has been resolved.The university signed an agreement earlier this month to tackle antisemitism on campus, following an alleged anti-Israel conference in March that was co-sponsored together with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), and featured antisemitic comments made by a rapper at an event. UNC signed a similar agreement in October.
In April, the ZOA’s complaint alleged that UNC and Duke co-sponsored a one-sided anti-Israel conference from March 22 to 24, titled “Conflict over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities.” The conference, held on the UNC campus, included an offensive antisemitic performance by a rapper, who made several comments that included, “I cannot be antisemitic alone” and “go that antisemitic.” A video of the event went viral at the time on social media.Days after, antisemitic fliers warning of the “evil Jewish plot” and stating “do everything you can to fight the silent covert Jewish attempt to enslave and kill good Americans,” were found at UNC. Following the ZOA’s complaint, the OCR opened an investigation to determine whether a hostile environment existed in connection with the conference and if so, whether UNC and Duke appropriately responded as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was instituted in 1964, and it prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Before the OCR completed its investigation, both UNC and Duke expressed interest in resolving the issues raised in the ZOA’s complaint.Asked about the news of the resolution, Susan Tuchman, director of the Center for Law and Justice at the Zionist Organization of America, told The Jerusalem Post that the ZOA were “so glad to see that Duke University didn’t want to wait for the government’s determination about whether the university violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. “The university was willing to agree to take concrete steps to address the antisemitic harassment and intimidation of Jewish students,” Tuchman said on Thursday. “These steps will send a message to the university community that antisemitism won’t be tolerated.”Tuchman explained that according to the resolution agreement Duke has entered into with the OCR, it “must issue a community-wide statement which specifically says that antisemitic harassment won’t be tolerated. “The statement must also encourage community members to report anti-Semitic incidents,” she continued. “The university must address antisemitic incidents under its policies. And the policies have to provide a description of the ways that antisemitism can be expressed in the university environment.”As part of the agreement, the university “must include a component on antisemitic harassment in any training or orientation it offers, for the next two academic years,” Tuchman explained. “And for the next two academic years, the university has to host at least one meeting where students, faculty and staff can discuss with administrators their concerns about incidents of harassment.” She stressed that all of these steps should lead “to a safer and more welcoming campus environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students at Duke.”Asked what lesson other universities should take from this when dealing with antisemitism on campus, Tuchman said that based on this agreement, and that signed by UNC, “colleges and universities across the US should be getting the message that we have a federal government that appropriately takes the harassment and intimidation of Jewish students seriously. “If schools don’t treat the problem with the same seriousness and address antisemitism on their campuses, they will face legal consequences – including possibly the loss of federal funding,” she concluded.Addressing the matter, Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, told the Post in a statement that “as the Department of Education acknowledged in resolving the complaint, Duke has been swift in both condemning acts of antisemitism when they occur on campus and providing support for members of our community who may feel harmed or threatened by this form of bias. “We will continue to do so through our policies and programs consistent with our mission as an educational institution, our values of respect and inclusion, and all legal requirements,” Schoenfeld added.