The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) sent a letter to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) last Friday, informing OCR that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) violated its Resolution Agreement with OCR, which UNC signed on October 14, 2019. The Agreement was intended to resolve the ZOA’s April 2019 complaint against UNC, which alleged that UNC discriminated against Jewish students in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
Under the Resolution Agreement, UNC must “take all steps reasonably designed to ensure that students enrolled in the University are not subjected to a hostile environment and to respond to allegations of antisemitic harassment.” UNC failed to take those steps, the ZOA informed OCR in its August 20 letter, writing:
UNC knows that students are likely to face a hostile environment in a course being taught this fall (titled “The Conflict over Israel/Palestine”), based on the public statements of the instructor whom UNC has selected to teach the course – a Ph.D. student named Kylie Broderick. Broderick has openly promoted false and antisemitic lies about Israel – including that Israel has no right to exist – and she openly rejects any views that differ from hers. Knowing this, UNC has nevertheless permitted this course to proceed as scheduled, with Broderick as the instructor.
Numerous members of the Jewish and pro-Israel community expressed concern to UNC about the course proceeding under Broderick’s instruction, the ZOA informed OCR. North Carolina Hillel, for example, issued a statement expressing “fear that students who support and have a connection with Israel will be unwelcome or unsafe in this class, impinging on their academic freedom.”
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and other UNC officials dismissed these concerns in an email, expressing their “confiden[ce]” that students enrolled in Broderick’s class “will benefit from a thoughtful presentation of information relevant to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.”
The ZOA raised its own concerns in an August 11, 2021 letter to the Chancellor, reminding him of UNC’s obligations under the Resolution Agreement, and recommending reasonable steps that would ensure that Jewish and pro-Israel students would not be subjected to a hostile environment, as required by the Resolution Agreement. The Chancellor did not respond.
Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, urged OCR to hold UNC accountable for violating the Resolution Agreement, stating: “OCR must deliver a strong message to UNC – that our government takes antisemitism seriously and will hold publicly-funded schools accountable when they don’t address this ugly problem. Particularly for a school like UNC, which already has a problematic history of tolerating antisemitism, OCR must impose serious consequences. UNC must get the message that under the Resolution Agreement – and under the law – UNC must protect Jewish students from a hostile environment and provide them with the safe and welcoming learning environment that every student deserves.”