Photo Credit: Ajay Suresh
CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The American Center for Law & Justice last week filed a Title VI complaint regarding a sustained pattern of antisemitic activity which the City University of New York has willfully ignored, the group reported last Thursday (ACLJ Files Title VI Complaint Against City University of New York for Antisemitic Discrimination).

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, any person who believes they have been discriminated against based on race, color, or national origin by a recipient of federal assistance, may file a Title VI complaint with the federal agency providing the assistance and the agency should either initiate fund termination proceedings or refer the matter to the Department of Justice for appropriate legal action.


The ACLJ complaint, sent to Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights with the US Department of Education, says the ACLJ “has been approached by a number of concerned stakeholders and community members regarding a sustained pattern of antisemitic activity which the City University of New York (“CUNY” or the “University”) has willfully ignored. We respectfully urge you to investigate and determine whether CUNY has engaged in discrimination and the permission of a hostile environment, and other violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

According to the ACLJ, harassment on CUNY campuses over the past ten years has become so commonplace it is now normal. “Antisemitic flyers with vulgar comments about religious Jews—incredible as it may seem, even swastikas—are regularly observed on CUNY campuses. Attacking, denigrating, and threatening ‘Zionists’ has become the norm, with the crystal-clear understanding that ‘Zionist’ is now merely an epithet for ‘Jew.’ Jewish faculty and staff members at CUNY have faced pervasive, antisemitic discrimination and CUNY has done nothing to protect them, thereby tacitly endorsing the widespread antisemitism and discrimination.”

Among other things, the complaint to the Dept. of Education cites an event in February 2015, when a Jewish student at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice was called a ‘Zionist pig’ and had a water bottle thrown at him because of an Israeli flag patch on his backpack.

Towards the end of the academic year, in May of 2015, after a Jewish book was defaced with a swastika and a hate statement in the campus library at the Silberman School of Social Work, Morr Mazal Barton and other Jewish students signed an email addressed to the Silberman deans expressing concerns regarding several terrifying antisemitic incidents that had left students fearful for their physical safety and afraid to come to school.

Among the incidents described was the discovery of a swastika in a campus bathroom. Shortly thereafter, the administration responded by denying the evidence, claiming that the assertions were “false and nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumor.” This was despite the incident having been officially reported to two campus security officers. The administration later admitted to having found the swastikas on campus and even having their pictures.

“The antisemitism at CUNY has already led officials in the New York City Council to pull $50,000 in funding that had been earmarked for the school and to launch their own investigation,” according to ACLJ. CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez postponed to July 30, 2022, a meeting on CUNY antisemitism that was scheduled for June 8, but the night before, he backed out of the meeting altogether.

The hearing proceeded without Rodriguez, and students and faculty testified about being targeted for their Jewish faith; their fear for their physical and emotional well-being; being assaulted, demonized, and harassed; and regularly hearing antisemitic slurs, including calls for the murder of Jews.

At the hearing, CUNY officials admitted they don’t apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which they sign every year to receive federal funds as part of their adherence to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“In short, CUNY has become a hotbed for discrimination and antisemitism,” wrote the ACLJ’s Mark Goldfeder. “Students and faculty have complained about the antisemitic climate and CUNY has failed to take any significant action to address the pervasively hostile environment for Jewish students.”

“CUNY’s actions and inactions took place in the face of rising antisemitism in the United States – and on campuses in particular – despite earnest and persistent pressure by the affected community to stand up to the bigotry and discrimination and do something about it,” Goldfeder wrote. “For years, CUNY has refused to hold anyone accountable in any meaningful way, but we at the ACLJ will not let that status quo continue. CUNY has admitted in a public hearing that they do not follow the standards in Title VI. In our complaint, we asked that the Department of Education intervene and make sure that the University either corrects its ways or immediately loses all its funding.”


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