New York University Settles With U.S. Department Of Education Over Complaint Of Antisemitism

CATEGORY: Private Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Private Education
DATE: Dec 09, 2020

On September 25, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reached a settlement with New York University (University) over a complaint filed by a student that the University discriminated against students of Jewish descent, on the basis of their national origin, by failing to respond appropriately to incidents that created a hostile environment for Jewish students at the University.  The complaint involved multiple incidents where students experienced harassment based on their Jewish ancestry from 2017 to 2019.  These incidents include, an injury to a student during an event hosted by the University student group, Realize Israel, and a tweet from a student that he wanted “all Zionists to die,” which resulted in the closure of the University’ Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life for 48 hours, among other incidents.

OCR enforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and its implementing regulations, which collectively prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities receiving financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  Under Title VI, a recipient college or university subjects an individual to discrimination based on national origin if the college or university “effectively caused, encouraged, accepted, tolerated, or failed to correct a hostile environment of which it has notice.”  A hostile environment is one that includes “harassing conduct (e.g., physical, verbal, or graphic conduct) that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by the recipient [college or university].”

OCR investigated the student complaint, but before it finished the investigation and reaching the findings, the University elected to voluntarily settle the complaint.  As part of the settlement, the University must revise its Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy to include a statement that the University prohibits anti-Semitism; take action to address and ameliorate anti-Semitism that involves student clubs; issue a statement that the University does not tolerate acts of anti-Semitism; and conduct outreach to inform students, faculty, and staff of the University’s commitment to take all necessary actions to address and ameliorate discrimination and harassment based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitism.  The University must also take steps, including disciplinary action where appropriate, to address complaints and respond to incidents of anti-Semitism.  The University must submit periodic reports to OCR to demonstrate compliance with the terms of the settlement.

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