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Investigation Announced Into UIUC Handling of Anti-Semitism

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November 18, 2020
Photo by Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced on November 17 that they will be investigating a complaint alleging that the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has improperly handled incidents of anti-Semitism on campus.

The complaint, which was filed in March by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP in conjunction with the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (but not publicly announced until October 23), accuses the university fostering a hostile campus climate against Jews. The complaint alleges that the university’s response to anti-Semitic incidents on campus has been “wholly inadequate” over the past five years and “in some cases, UIUC staff members were complicit in fostering this hostility and discrimination.”

The complaint alleges that the university’s response to anti-Semitic incidents on campus has been “wholly inadequate” over the past five years and “in some cases, UIUC staff members were complicit in fostering this hostility and discrimination.”

Alyza D. Lewin, president of the Louis Brandeis Center, said in a statement that OCR’s decision to investigate the complaint is a “significant and critical development” in combating a hostile climate against Jewish students on the university’s campus.

“We are pleased to have begun recent work with the University,” Lewin said. “At the same time, there is much work to be done, and that is why OCR’s involvement and expertise is vital. We look forward to working with UIUC to implement the important, initial steps it has agreed to, and to cooperating with the Department of Education’s investigation to ensure the best outcome for the University of Illinois community. Both tracks are critical to help achieve a discrimination-free academic setting for Jewish students.”

On November 16, the university released a joint statement with the university’s Hillel and Chabad, Hillel International, Jewish United Fund Chicago, the Brandeis Center and the Arnold & Porter law firm condemning anti-Semitism and acknowledging that “for many Jewish students, Zionism is an integral part of their identity.” The university will be establishing an Advisory Council on Jewish and Campus Life, implementing educational programming on anti-Semitism, and re-evaluating their procedures for handling instances of anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination on campus as part of their efforts to combat anti-Semitism on campus.

“Jewish students at UIUC and elsewhere are being marginalized, ostracized, bullied and harassed if they won’t publicly disavow their ancestral and ethnic heritage,” Lewin added. “They are being told that they must abandon their love of Israel to hold office, to join committees, or just to be accepted as worthy. That is textbook discrimination, and it must stop.”

Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel of the Illini Chabad Center for Jewish Life also said in a statement, “While we commend the Chancellors office and the University for the steps they are taking, we know this is a first step, and there is lot of work still to be done. With OCR opening an investigation, we hope that both of these actions, working simultaneously, will create a campus where Jewish students and all students can feel safe and at home.”

UIUC Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs Robin Kaler told the Journal, “We are committed to supporting a safe and welcoming environment for all students. We will respond to the OCR complaint that was filed in March, and we are focused on working together on clear, concrete and actionable steps to support Jewish students, staff and faculty.”

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