ZOA Applauds Members of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for Demanding Answers to U.S. Education Department’s Troubling Report on Campus Anti-Semitism
News
March 5, 2008

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) applauds members of the United States Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary for their powerful and incisive letter to Secretary Margaret Spellings of the U.S. Department of Education, demanding answers to the Education Department’s troubling report on campus anti-Semitism.  In the letter, dated February 27, 2008, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, together with Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), expressed their “concern regarding anti-Semitic incidents aimed at Jewish students at several colleges and universities and the response to such incidents by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).”  (To read the Senators’ letter, click here.)  In addition, these members of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed concern about how OCR handled the ZOA’s complaint on behalf of Jewish students at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).  The complaint, filed in October 2004 under Title VI of the Civil  Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), alleged that Jewish students at UCI had been threatened, harassed and intimidated, and that the UCI administration had failed to take meaningful steps to address the problem in violation of Title VI.



In their letter, the Senate Judiciary Committee members were troubled that OCR had decided that there was “insufficient evidence to support ZOA’s allegations that UCI had failed to respond promptly and effectively to complaints by Jewish students.”  The Committee members were also concerned that OCR had concluded that “many of the [ZOA’s] allegations were beyond [OCR’]s authority under Title VI.”



According to the Committee members, this conclusion is inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent, it is inconsistent with OCR’s prior policy statements from the fall of 2004 that afforded protection to Jewish students under Title VI, and it is inconsistent with the conclusions reached by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights after it studied the issue of anti-Semitism on college campuses.  The Civil Rights Commission expressed concern about the seriousness of the problems that Jewish students were facing on their campuses.  It recognized that anti-Israel and anti-Zionist propaganda could be an expression of anti-Semitism.  According to the Civil Rights Commission, “[a]nti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.”  The Civil Rights Commission specifically recommended that OCR vigorously enforce Title VI to ensure that students were protected from anti-Semitic harassment.



Given the case law and the prior policy statements by both OCR and the Commission on Civil Rights, the Senate Judiciary Committee members asked Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for a “prompt” and “timely” response to the following questions:




  1. “Is it OCR’s current policy that Jewish students are protected against racial and ethnic discrimination under Title VI, regardless of whether the students may be Caucasian and American born?”

  2. “If OCR has narrowed it policy in any way since the fall of 2004, what is the explanation for such a change in policy?”



  1. “Why did OCR take over three years to issue a decision on the complaint filed by the ZOA on behalf of Jewish students at UCI? . . . Is three years typical of the amount of time OCR takes to complete investigations under Title VI?”  The ZOA “proffered witnesses whom OCR did not interview. . . . Why did OCR delay making site visits to UCI and interviewing university officials [until 2006], and why did OCR fail to interview all of the available witnesses?”


Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, and Susan Tuchman, Esq., the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, praised the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for taking on the issue of campus anti-Semitism and raising these important questions with the Secretary of Education:  “We were pleased to see that these esteemed members of the Senate Judiciary Committee share our concern about whether the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is interpreting Title VI to protect against anti-Semitic harassment and vigorously enforcing Title VI to make sure that Jewish students are protected.  We have been exposing these campus problems and fighting for this legal protection on many fronts, by filing the Title VI complaint on behalf of students at UCI, by testifying before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, by supporting the Civil Rights Commission’s important public campaign to end campus anti-Semitism, and by bringing these serious issues to the public’s attention in articles, letters and speeches.  The letter from Senators Specter, Kyl and Brownback powerfully conveys their deep concerns about the problems that Jewish students are facing and whether the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is protecting them.



“These highly respected Senate Judiciary Committee members also share our concern about OCR’s decision in the ZOA’s Title VI case against UCI.  The evidence was overwhelming that Jewish students faced a long pattern of harassment and intimidation at UCI, to the point that at least two students actually left UCI to finish their schooling elsewhere.  The evidence was also overwhelming that UCI did little if anything in response to these problems.  Yet OCR shockingly concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the ZOA’s allegations that Title VI had been violated.



“Now the Department of Education will have to provide answers to these serious questions about its policy and whether Jewish students are getting the protections they need and are entitled to under Title VI.  We deeply appreciate and thank Senators Specter, Kyl and Brownback for their important efforts and look forward to the Secretary of Education’s prompt and timely answers to their questions.”


             


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The Zionist Organization of America, founded in 1897, is the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States. The ZOA works to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations, educates the American public and Congress about the dangers that Israel faces, and combats anti-Israel bias in the media and on college campuses. Its past presidents have included Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver.

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