The Zionist Origination of America (ZOA) achieved another significant legal victory in the fight against campus anti-Semitism: Triggered by the ZOA’s complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Duke University, Duke entered into a resolution agreement with OCR to resolve the complaint on December 3, 2019. UNC signed a similar resolution agreement last month.
The ZOA’s April 17, 2019 complaint alleged that UNC and Duke co-sponsored a one-sided anti-Israel conference on March 22-24, 2019, titled “Conflict over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities.” The conference, held on the UNC campus, included an offensive anti-Semitic performance by a rapper.
The rapper encouraged the audience to “think of Mel Gibson” – the actor with a history of making anti-Semitic statements” – as they sang along with him. “Go that anti-Semitic,” the rapper urged. “I cannot be anti-Semitic alone.”
In a video that went viral, the audience – presumably comprised of students, faculty and administrators, among others – can be heard singing along and laughing to the refrain, “Oh! I’m in love with a Jew.” Days after the conference, anti-Semitic flyers were discovered on the UNC campus, warning of an “evil Jewish plot” and stating “do everything you can to fight the silent covert Jewish attempt to enslave and kill good Americans.”
In response to the ZOA’s complaint, OCR opened an investigation to determine whether a hostile environment existed in connection with the conference and if so, whether UNC and Duke appropriately responded as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Before OCR completed its investigation, both UNC and Duke expressed interest in resolving the issues raised in the complaint. UNC entered into a resolution agreement with OCR on October 14, 2019.
In a resolution letter dated December 10, 2019, OCR informed the ZOA that Duke signed a resolution agreement, too. The Resolution Agreement requires Duke to take the following steps:
- Issue a statement to the university community that Duke does not tolerate acts of prohibited harassment. The statement must specifically provide that Duke does not tolerate anti-Semitic harassment and it must encourage community members to report any such incidents to the university.
- Ensure that its written polices continue to address incidents of harassment on the basis of race or national origin, and that Duke continues to respond to anti-Semitic incidents of harassment or discrimination. The policies also must provide a description of the forms of anti-Semitism that can manifest in the university environment.
- For the next two academic years, in each training/orientation offered to the university community regarding the policies, Duke must include a component on prohibited harassment, including anti-Semitic harassment.
- For each of the next two academic years, Duke must host at least one meeting affording students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to discuss with university administrators any concerns they have about incidents of prohibited harassment.
OCR will monitor Duke University’s implementation of the Resolution Agreement until the university fulfills its terms.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice Susan B. Tuchman, Esq. praised Duke University for working cooperatively with OCR to resolve the issues raised in the ZOA’s complaint: “The ZOA is so proud that its work has once again led to a result that will help protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination and assure them the safe and welcoming environment every student deserves.
“We thank OCR for promptly and effectively responding to the shocking display of anti-Semitism at the UNC-Duke anti-Israel conference last spring. Just days after Duke signed this Resolution Agreement, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism which makes it even clearer that our government is committed to fighting this ugly hatred here in the U.S. and around the world, especially on our college campuses.
“Given the alarming rise in campus anti-Semitism, we are so grateful that the U.S. government is finally sending a strong message to colleges and universities across the country – that if they fail to respond to the anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation of Jewish students, they will face legal consequences, which could include the loss of federal funding.”