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Education Dept. to Investigate Berkeley Student Bylaws Banning Zionist Speakers

"The OCR letter, which was obtained by the Journal, said that they would be investigating “whether the University failed to respond appropriately in the fall 2022 semester to notice from Jewish law students, faculty, and staff that they experienced a hostile environment at the law school based on their shared Jewish ancestry when University-recognized student organizations passed a bylaw against inviting speakers who support ‘Zionism, the state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.’”
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December 15, 2022
UC Berkeley. brainchildvn/Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has opened an investigation into Berkeley Law School over the several student groups who passed bylaws barring Zionist speakers to campus.

OCR sent a letter to attorneys Gabriel Groisman and Arsen Ostrovsky, who heads The International Legal Forum, responding to their November 18 complaint against the law school. The OCR letter, which was obtained by the Journal, said that they would be investigating “whether the University failed to respond appropriately in the fall 2022 semester to notice from Jewish law students, faculty, and staff that they experienced a hostile environment at the law school based on their shared Jewish ancestry when University-recognized student organizations passed a bylaw against inviting speakers who support ‘Zionism, the state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.’” Groisman and Ostrovsky had argued that Berkeley Law violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by failing to take action against the student groups with the bylaws.

“We applaud the OCR for making the principled decision to launch a formal investigation against UC Berkeley Law School over the on-going discrimination against Jewish students, faculty and staff on the basis of their national origin and shared Jewish ancestry,” Groisman and Ostrovsky said in a statement. “We initiated this claim because we said ‘enough is enough’ and decided that we must stand up for the Jewish students at UC Berkeley, who have been facing an unprecedent wave of discrimination and antisemitism on campus. Antizionism is antisemitism. Zionism is an integral component of the Jewish identity. By discriminating against ‘Zionists,’ the registered student groups, and by extension UC Berkeley Law School are discriminating against the Jewish community, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. We are confident that the OCR will do the right thing and ultimately hold UC Berkeley Law School accountable and protect the Jewish students on campus from these discriminatory acts.”

A Berkeley Law spokesperson told Jewish Insider that they would “fully cooperate” with the investigation and touted the law school’s “strong anti-discrimination policies.”

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