Spearheaded by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a coalition of 30 national organizations sent a detailed letter to the leaders of 165 colleges and universities across the U.S., expressing deep concern about campus antisemitism, and urging them to take specific steps to protect Jewish students from antisemitic harassment and intimidation. (The ZOA departments that provided significant help in this effort include ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, Center for Campus Activism, Center for Government Relations, and Division of Special Projects.)
The letter provided numerous examples of antisemitism on campuses across the country, including at New York University, the University of Southern California, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Reminding college and university leaders of their moral and legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to provide Jewish students with a learning environment that is physically and psychologically safe, the coalition urged college and university leaders to take the following steps:
- Issue strong public statements to the university community, urging students, faculty and other members of the community to engage in discussion and debate in a civil, tolerant and respectful manner.
- Respond promptly to each and every antisemitic incident on campus – including those relating to Zionism and Israel – by publicly condemning the antisemitism and the perpetrators, and publicly affirming that antisemitism is intolerable and inconsistent with the university’s values of civility, respect and tolerance. Use the incident as an opportunity to educate your university community about the many ways antisemitism is expressed today, using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a frame of reference.
- Immediately and thoroughly respond to possible infractions of university rules and policies (including student-filed grievances and complaints), and hold wrongdoers accountable for their misconduct. No student or student group should be given special treatment and allowed to violate rules and policies without consequence. If a student group engages in hateful, bigoted conduct that creates a climate of fear or disrespect on campus, then that group should not be entitled to the rights and privileges afforded to registered student groups and those rights and privileges should be revoked.
- Review their rules and policies on cyberbullying – and augment them, if necessary – to ensure that the definition of cyberbullying includes antisemitic threats, harassment and bullying, and that cyberbullies are on notice that they will face disciplinary action, including for off-campus conduct that negatively affects the learning environment on campus.
- Immediately report alleged or suspected criminal conduct (e.g., antisemitic violence, threats of violence, vandalism) to the appropriate authorities.
- Mandate training on antisemitism for administrators, faculty, security and other university personnel, using the IHRA definition of antisemitism as a guide, so that they will understand the many ways that antisemitism is expressed today, including when anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism are a mask for antisemitism,
- Mandate training on antisemitism for all students, using the IHRA antisemitism definition as a guide. Students and student groups that engage in antisemitic conduct should be supervised and appropriately mentored, and disciplined if they violate university rules and policies.
- Issue a statement to faculty informing them that they cannot use their academic positions or the university’s name or resources to promote a personal, political antisemitic or anti-Israel agenda that compromises the university’s academic mission or jeopardizes the physical or psychological safety and well-being of students.
- Make it clear in their statement to faculty that students must be able to express their views in class without fear of intimidation or reprisal from other students or professors.
The groups that co-signed the ZOA’s letter were Alpha Epsilon Pi, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, Americans Against Antisemitism, Americans for a Safe Israel, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Chamah, Chovevei Zion, Christians’ Israel Public Action Campaign, Club Z, Coalition for Jewish Values, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Conference of Jewish Affairs, Endowment for Middle East Truth, HaShevet, Hasbara Fellowships, Institute of Black Solidarity for Israel, The Lawfare Project, Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Middle East Research Center, Ltd., National Council of Young Israel, One Israel Fund, Russian American Jewish Experience, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department, Students Supporting Israel, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Young Jewish Conservatives, and Z Street.
Urging colleges and universities to implement the coalition’s recommendations right away, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “It should not be lost on college leaders that 30 diverse national organizations came together because we all share serious concern about rising antisemitism and its impact on the safety and well-being of Jewish students on American college campuses.
“It is intolerable that any student on a U.S. campus should have even the slightest fear or worry about being proudly Jewish and proudly expressing their Jewish identity, including their support for their religious and ancestral homeland, Israel.
“College leaders must understand the enormous and undeserved hatred and hostility that many Jewish students are enduring on campus now, and they must be committed to addressing these problems. We would expect no less from college leaders if any other group was being targeted on campus and subjected to harassment and bigotry.
“Implementing our recommendations will go a long way in ensuring that our children and grandchildren have the kind of safe and welcoming campus environment that every college student deserves. We urge college leaders to put them into practice right away. Every member of our coalition is committed to supporting this much-needed effort.”