Duke University And University Of North Carolina Sign Resolution Agreements Over Complaint Of Anti-Semitic Conference

CATEGORY: Private Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Private Education
DATE: Mar 04, 2020

On April 17, 2019, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights requesting that the Department “investigate and determine whether the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Duke University (Duke) misused federal funds to promote a one-sided “academic” conference that was hostile to Israel and blatantly anti-Semitic.”  ZOA, which was founded in 1897, is the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States and has offices throughout the United States and Israel.

In its letter, ZOA stated that UNC hosted and Duke co-sponsored a conference titled “Conflict over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities” from March 22-24, 2019, using grant money from the U.S. Department of Education.  ZOA explained that the conference was one-sided and hostile to Israel and featured a rapper named Tamer Nafar who prefaced his performance by saying “this is my anti-Semitic song.”  In a video of Mr. Nafar’s performance shared online by filmmaker Ami Horowitz, the audience is seen standing, clapping, and singing along with Mr. Nafar as he encourages them to be anti-Semitic with him.  According to ZOA, in the days following the conference, swastikas were found drawn on the UNC campus and anti-Semitic posters were found on bookshelves and tables in a UNC library.

UNC signed a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education on October 14, 2019, and on December 3, 2019, Duke signed a similar resolution agreement with the Department.  Under the terms of the resolution agreements, neither university admits liability or concede that they violated the law.

However, the resolution agreements require the universities to issue statements to all students, faculty, and staff that acts of discrimination or harassment, and specifically anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination, will not be tolerated and that students who believe they have been subjected to such harassment or discrimination should report it to the university.  The universities are also required to revise their policies on discrimination and harassment to define anti-Semitism and “provide a description of the forms of anti-Semitism that can manifest in the University environment.”

Further, the universities must host at least one meeting during each of the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years to provide students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to discuss with university administrators any concerns they may have about incidents of harassment and discrimination.  The universities must investigate any specific incidents identified during the meeting.  Finally, the universities must include a component on anti-Semitic harassment in orientations and training for students, faculty, and staff on their discrimination or harassment policies.