Complaint filed against American University for ignoring antisemitism


A formal complaint has been lodged with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights about an uptick of antisemitism against American University, on Wednesday.

The complaint details a series of distressing incidents, including assault, threats, harassment, and intimidation, occurring in dormitories, classrooms, and various campus spaces.

According to the filed complaint, AU is accused of being fully aware of a pervasive and hostile environment for Jewish students but allegedly chose to ignore it. Furthermore, the university is claimed to have subjected Jewish students who reported these incidents to harassment and disciplinary proceedings.

Incidents include threats, vandalism, and harassment

Among the disturbing incidents outlined in the complaint are cases of dormitory doors and posters of Jewish and Israeli students being vandalized with swastikas and threats. The complaint also alleges that anti-Israel protests disrupted classes, impeding Jewish students’ access to essential university spaces. Jewish students reportedly faced ongoing harassment, discrimination, and targeting from both peers and faculty, leading to feelings of fear, anxiety, isolation, and marginalization.

An egregious incident involved a Jewish Israeli student who was allegedly spit on by fellow students, and his piano recital flyer was defaced with antisemitic graffiti, including swastikas and inflammatory messages. Dormitory doors were marked with swastikas, and threatening messages were sent to Jewish students.

Pro-Israel students take part in a protest in support of Israel amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza, at Columbia University in New York City, U.S., October 12, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON)

The complaint sheds light on classroom incidents, with professors allegedly promoting anti-Israel sentiments during official class time. One professor is accused of projecting photos from pro-Palestinian protests, including one depicting a Star of David in a trash can with a derogatory caption. This action reportedly led to the targeting and harassment of a Jewish student in the class.

While AU took swift and effective action in response to incidents of Islamophobia, the complaint alleges that the university consistently ignored reports of anti-Semitic discrimination and harassment. Moreover, the university is accused of subjecting Jewish students to baseless disciplinary hearings for attempting to document instances of harassment.


Not enough action was taken against antisemitism

Kenneth L. Marcus, founder, and chairman of the Brandeis Center, strongly criticized AU’s alleged inaction, stating, “Shamefully AU has repeatedly chosen to turn a blind eye to the antisemitism snowballing on its campus.” He accused the university of failing in its legal obligation to protect Jewish students and attempting to intimidate those who spoke up against the discrimination.

Julia Jassey, CEO of Jewish on Campus, stressed the need for consistent support for Jewish students and called for a swift investigation into the alleged incidents. The complaint invokes Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, arguing that discriminating against Jewish students based on their identity is as unlawful as any other form of discrimination.

Hillel International reported a significant increase in campus antisemitism since October 7th, following Hamas’ massacre of Israeli civilians. The Department of Education is currently investigating similar complaints against other institutions, including Wellesley, SUNY New Paltz, USC, Brooklyn College, and the University of Illinois.

The Brandeis Center, in collaboration with other organizations, has established the Campus Antisemitism Legal Line (CALL), a free helpline offering legal protection for college students who have experienced antisemitism .


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