ZOA Deeply Disappointed in U.S. Gov’t’s Resolution Agreement with CUNY
News Press Release
June 20, 2024

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) criticized today the resolution agreement that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reached with the City University of New York (CUNY).  The resolution agreement – which resolves the ZOA’s and eight other complaints against CUNY for failing to effectively address harassment and discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act – will not remedy the hostile antisemitic environment that Jewish students at CUNY have been enduring for years.

On June 17, 2024, OCR notified the ZOA that the ZOA’s Title VI complaint against CUNY’s law school, which was filed in October 2020, had been resolved together with eight other complaints, by way of one resolution agreement with CUNY.  Six of the complaints alleged discrimination and harassment against Jewish students. The other three complaints alleged discrimination and harassment since October 2023 against students of Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and/or South Asian ancestry.

In the resolution agreement, CUNY committed to, among other things: (1) provide training to employees responsible for investigating harassment complaints, to ensure thorough and impartial investigations; (2) provide training for campus peace officers on CUNY’s Title VI obligations; (3) ensure that each CUNY college and school administer at least one climate survey to students by September 30, 2024; (4) continue a review of CUNY’s nondiscrimination and antisemitism policies; and (5) issue a statement from the Chancellor to all students and employees, stating that CUNY does not tolerate discrimination or harassment.  In addition, CUNY must complete an investigation into the ZOA’s and other complaints that were either insufficiently investigated or not investigated at all, to determine whether a hostile environment existed for Jewish students during the relevant periods. 

CUNY has a longstanding problem with antisemitism.  The small steps called for in the resolution agreement are not sufficient to fix the many antisemitism problems that the ZOA documented in detail going back to 2016.  Jewish students were unsafe then and they are unsafe today.

To eliminate the hostile antisemitic environment that has plagued CUNY for so many years, the resolution agreement should have required CUNY to take more concrete and meaningful steps, including the following: 

  1. A requirement that CUNY adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, including its contemporary examples of antisemitism, and that the definition be incorporated into all of CUNY’s nondiscrimination and antisemitism policies and training protocols;
  2. A requirement that CUNY mandate antisemitism training for all administrators, faculty, staff and students every year, using the IHRA definition as a guide and resource;
  3. A requirement that the Chancellor issue a strong and unequivocal statement acknowledging CUNY’s long history of failing to respond promptly and effectively to antisemitic harassment and discrimination; apologizing to the community for CUNY’s seeming indifference and inaction in response to these serious problems; and committing to doing better and showing, moving forward, that CUNY will not tolerate antisemitic harassment or discrimination and will be using the IHRA definition as a tool and a guide.

In appraising the resolution agreement with CUNY, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein stated, “We couldn’t agree more with OCR head Catherine Lhamon’s statement that everyone has a right to a learning environment that is free from discriminatory harassment based on who they are.  CUNY has been failing to protect that right for years.  In 2016, the investigation into antisemitism at CUNY spurred by the ZOA confirmed many horrific incidents of antisemitism, including protesters at Hunter College calling for ‘Jews out of CUNY’ and ‘Death to Jews.’

“Antisemitism poisoned the environment at CUNY law school, too, as the ZOA’s 2020 Title VI complaint showed.  A CUNY law student posted a video in which she is holding a lighter with a flame and threatening to set someone on fire because he is wearing an Israel Defense Forces sweatshirt.  Not only did CUNY fail even to condemn the student’s conduct, but it also justified the conduct and actually apologized for having issued what was a weak statement against hate and antisemitism.  Worse, CUNY gave this student a platform to speak at the law school’s commencement.  CUNY then repeated this abomination the following year, giving another student with a long record of spreading Jew- and Israel-hatred a speaking platform at the law school commencement.”

Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., continued: “Given this sordid history of antisemitism at CUNY, OCR would have been justified to call for the suspension or withholding of federal funding to CUNY.  At a minimum, the resolution agreement should have required CUNY to acknowledge its many mistakes in the past, and to take steps that would truly enhance its ability to recognize and respond to antisemitic harassment in the future.”

Center for Law & Justice
We work to educate the American public and Congress about legal issues in order to advance the interests of Israel and the Jewish people.
We assist American victims of terrorism in vindicating their rights under the law, and seek to hold terrorists and sponsors of terrorism accountable for their actions.
We fight anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias in the media and on college campuses.
We strive to enforce existing law and also to create new law in order to safeguard the rights of the Jewish people in the United States and Israel.