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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Education Department Office of Civil Rights’

UC Jewish Prof: Civil Rights Office Rolling Back Protection for Jews

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin lives and teaches in the belly of the beast, and although she is on faculty, her position as lecturer of Hebrew Language at the University of California, Santa Cruz means she has practically no political pull.

But Rossman-Benjamin is not easily deterred.

For years the Jewish instructor has been trying, in her own, respectful, non-confrontational way, to right a serious wrong she sees and hears from students about, on the California campuses: rank anti-Semitism. First she filed a Complaint in 2009, and then, just two weeks ago, filed an Appeal from the Office of Civil Rights refusal to act on her Complaint.

IN 2010, DEPT OF EDUC. EXTENDED CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS TO PROTECT JEWS FROM DISCRIMINATION

And in fact, there was good news on the legal front in the past few years: a much heralded announcement regarding the Civil Rights laws, by which the U.S. Department of Education extended legal protection from discrimination to Jews.

But a decision in August by the Office of Civil Rights to close the file on Rossman-Benjamin’s Complaint, coincidentally on the same day and for the same reasons it rejected two other Complaints filed alleging anti-Jewish discrimination against California colleges, may well mean that the legal protection extended to protect Jews from discrimination in education has been rolled back up.

The Office of Civil Rights has thus once again shut its door to Jews discriminated against – whether through overt action or by the creation of a hostile environment – on U.S. college campuses.

Rossman-Benjamin carefully documents dozens of examples of discriminatory behavior creating a hostile environment for Jewish students qua Jews in the Appeal she filed less than two weeks ago.

But here’s the real issue: Rossman-Benjamin is not focused on the nastiness of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic students, her concern – indeed the sole focus of a complaint she filed with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights – is the official sponsorship of such actions, activities and antagonisms by the universities themselves.

Inexplicably, the OCR chose to ignore the essence of Rossman-Benjamin’s claim. Instead, it pretended that the professor was complaining about student behavior, and then rejected the complaint as unworthy of its review because, according to the OCR, Rossman-Benjamin was complaining about First Amendment protected speech.

The fact that other “First Amendment protected speech” was deemed worthy of review and indeed, nearly immediate corrective action and investigations both by the universities and the OCR, when the speech was directed at groups other than Jews, is very much a significant aspect of Rossman-Benjamin’s appeal.

But first, let’s look at the main focus of Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint, and how the OCR responded.

THE UNDERLYING COMPLAINT, FILED IN 2009

Rossman-Benjamin’s 2009 Complaint charged that professors, academic departments and residential colleges at the California universities were promoting and encouraging anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior, and creating a hostile environment for Jewish students, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Specific examples of anti-Semitic behavior in the Complaint included:

ZIONISM AS PROMOTING ETHNIC CLEANSING

(1)  The university department-sponsored “A Teach in on Islamophobia: Between the War on Terror and Arab Revolution,” sponsored by the Asian Diasporas Research Clustier of the Institute for Humanities Research and by the UC Center for New Racial Studies, as well as various anti-Israel organizations, such as the Students for Justice in Palestine.

At this teach-in, both panelists blamed Israel and American Zionist organizations and individuals for contributing to Islamophobia to silence all criticism of Israel; one panelist referred to Israel as a “colonial settler state” whose Zionist ideology promotes “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid,” and said that anyone who “challenged these ‘truths’ is engaging in Islamophobia and racism.”

OFFICIAL PROMOTION OF THE FREEDOM FLOTILLA TO BREAK ISRAEL’S BLOCKADE OF GAZA

Debra Ellis, the university official responsible for coordinating educational events at the California campus at which this event took place, was seated at a table promoting a U.S. boat to Gaza as part of the Freedom Flotilla II.  Ellis handed out copies of a letter she wrote, encouraging students to go to the official U.S. Boat to Gaza website, to endorse the effort to launch a U.S. boat to Gaza, to “write letters to Gaza” that would be transported on the boat, and to write federal, state and city representatives, encouraging them to endorse the campaign.

Court Dismisses Antisemitism Complaints against UC Berkley

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Federal complaints accusing the University of California campuses in Berkeley and Santa Cruz of failing to curb hostile environments for Jewish students were dismissed.

A complaint filed last year with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against the Berkeley campus by two recent graduates referred specifically to the annual February Apartheid Week demonstration. It charged that the demonstration violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars the recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education extended Title VI to include the protection of Jewish students from anti-Semitism on campuses.

The Office of Civil Rights investigation, which included interviews with students and observations of the demonstrations, concluded this week that events described in the complaint did not constitute harassment but rather “expression on matters of public concern directed to the university community.”

“In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience,” the probe concluded.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said the claim of a hostile environment for Jewish students at Berkeley “is, on its face, entirely unfounded.”

Dirks added, “We will continue our ongoing efforts to protect free speech rights while promoting respectful dialogue and maintaining a campus environment that is safe for all our students.”

In a complaint against UC Santa Cruz, the Office of Civil Rights in a letter said it determined that the events described in the complaint “do not constitute actionable harassment.”

The investigation, opened in March 2011, focused on two events on campus in which speakers were critical of Israeli policies, on two other talks that had been planned but never took place and on several incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti.

The civil rights office determined that the campus “took prompt action to investigate … and to remove the graffiti.”

“This campus values the free and open expression of ideas, and we diligently safeguard our students’ civil rights,” Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal said. “We are, therefore, pleased that these allegations have been thoroughly investigated and dismissed.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/court-dismisses-antisemitism-complaints-against-uc-berkley/2013/08/29/

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