ZOA Files Complaint Against Rutgers With Office For Civil Rights Because Of Hostile Environment For Jewish Students
July 20, 2011


ZOA to OCR:  Protect Jewish Students’

Rights Under Title VI





The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) today filed a complaint against Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights because of a hostile anti-Semitic campus environment.  The complaint, based on troubling reports from Jewish students, describes in detail the anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation and discrimination that Jewish students have been subjected to at Rutgers, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including the following:

·         A Jewish student named John Doe (a pseudonym) was subjected to murderous threats made against him by other students on Facebook – to “shut him up” by “beating him with a crowbar,” and to “skin him alive.”


·         Jewish student John Doe was subjected to anti-Semitic name-calling, threats and intimidation by a university official – the Outreach Coordinator for Rutgers’ Center for Middle East Studies.  The Outreach Coordinator referred to the Jewish student John Doe as “that racist Zionist pig!!!!!!!!” on Facebook, and incited other Facebook users against John Doe by encouraging them to go to a Facebook hate page about him.  The Outreach Coordinator also physically threatened and tried to provoke a physical fight with John Doe, rushing toward him after a student government meeting, pounding on her chest, and yelling, “I’m Palestinian.  Do you want to take me on?  Do you want to fight?  I have thick blood.  Try me.”


·         Events and programs are regularly sponsored on campus that demonize Jews and Israel, crossing the line into anti-Semitism and causing Jewish students to feel harassed and intimidated.


·         At the start of one such anti-Semitic event – which falsely and offensively analogized the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews to Israel’s policies and practices toward the Palestinian Arabs – the organizers suddenly imposed and selectively enforced an admissions policy, charging a fee to those thought to be Jewish and pro-Israel, while allowing free admission for those thought to be supporters of the anti-Israel event.  Students reported hearing one of the event’s sponsors say that that the admission fee was imposed when the organizers saw how many “Zionists [code for Jews] showed up.”


·         Middle East studies courses are so hateful and hostile to Israel, promoting anti-Israel falsehoods, that Jewish students avoid them.  If they do enroll, they are reluctant and even afraid to speak up in support of Israel. 


·         Jewish students feel harassed and intimidated on campus, afraid to show or express their support for Israel.  Some students describe feeling afraid to wear anything that shows they are Jewish or pro-Israel.  One student was reluctant even to talk on campus about having studied abroad in Israel.  Some students fear for their physical safety.


After describing the problems in detail that Jewish students have been facing, the ZOA urged in its complaint that the Office for Civil Rights “investigate the anti-Semitic hostility at Rutgers, which reportedly has been a longstanding problem, and hold the university accountable under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”  Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin at federally funded schools, including discrimination against Jews based on their actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.


Commenting on the filing of this civil rights complaint on behalf of Jewish students at Rutgers, Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, said, “The ZOA filed a Title VI complaint against Rutgers only after numerous serious efforts were made to get the university to respond to a long pattern of anti-Semitic hostility on campus, and the administration refused to do so.  Jewish students tried on their own to raise their concerns with the administration, but these efforts were futile.  Several filed bias reports, which are supposed to be responded to within 24 hours, but they were essentially ignored.  When the ZOA got involved, we too reached out to Rutgers in an effort to resolve the problems without legal action.  We twice wrote to President Richard L. McCormick, describing the many problems that Jewish students reported to us, and proposing reasonable steps that we believed would be effective in eliminating the hostile environment without impinging on any protected rights.  Many of the steps we proposed were recommended by the Office for Civil Rights itself in a policy letter issued last October, regarding compliance with Title VI and other civil rights laws.  President McCormick’s response was that no such steps were necessary or required; he rebuffed us, stating that ‘we [at Rutgers] are confident that we have satisfied our obligations under both Title VI and the First Amendment.’


“We at the ZOA do not agree, and neither do the students who have endured a campus environment that they see as increasingly hostile and anti-Semitic.  It is therefore up to the Office for Civil Rights to ensure that Jewish students’ legal right to a campus that is safe and not hostile to them is upheld and enforced.  We urge the Office for Civil Rights to investigate the ZOA’s Title VI complaint and compel the university to finally respond to the legitimate concerns of Jewish students and protect their legal right to a campus free from anti-Semitic hostility.  We will do everything we can to assist the Office for Civil Rights in completing a fair and thorough investigation.


“The ZOA commends the Jewish students at Rutgers who have had the courage and conviction to stand up for their legal rights and insist that the campus problems be addressed.  These students – like all students – are entitled to a campus that is not threatening or intimidating, where Jewish students who love and support Israel can be who they are, without any fear or hesitation.  The ZOA stands with these students.  We will do whatever we can to ensure them a campus environment that allows them to comfortably attend any class they wish, to walk, live and study on campus without fear, and to enjoy an educational experience is that is safe, nurturing and free from anti-Semitic bigotry.”

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