Government Investigating 5 Colleges for Recent Antisemitic, Anti-Muslim Harassment

The latest Israel-Hamas war has reportedly sparked an uptick in antisemitic and anti-Muslim harassment.
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Published on November 21, 2023
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  • Antisemitic and anti-Muslim harassment has reportedly become more common in recent months.
  • Lawmakers and federal agencies have begun cracking down on universities’ roles in harassment.
  • New investigations into five colleges and universities exemplify this push.
  • These institutions may have violated the Civil Rights Act.

The Office for Civil Rights within the Department of Education (ED) launched investigations into five colleges and universities for potentially violating the Civil Rights Act.

The latest Israel-Hamas war has sparked a rise in student protests and activism across the U.S., as well as a rise in antisemitic and anti-Muslim harassment. ED announced Nov. 16 that it is investigating a handful of colleges and universities for possible discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.

Those institutions include:

  • Lafayette College
  • Cornell University
  • Columbia University
  • Wellesley College
  • University of Pennsylvania

ED’s Office for Civil Rights has dozens of open shared ancestry investigations, according to the department. The above investigations stand apart because they were all opened after the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 and the ensuing conflict in Gaza.

ED stated that the five investigations include allegations of both antisemitic and anti-Muslim harassment.

The department did not, however, share why each institution is under investigation.

Hate has no place in our schools, period. When students are targeted because they are — or are perceived to be — Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, or any other ethnicity or shared ancestry, schools must act to ensure safe and inclusive educational environments where everyone is free to learn, ED Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. These investigations underscore how seriously the Biden-Harris Administration, including [ED], takes our responsibility to protect students from hatred and discrimination.

Colleges and universities have been under intense scrutiny since the Oct. 7 attacks.

Institutions have been the site of many protests representing varying viewpoints. As a result, donors and advocates have pushed university officials to make statements supporting or condemning student and faculty behavior.

Some donors pulled contributions over stances — or the lack of stances — university leaders have taken.

Recent events sparked renewed conversations about college students’ free speech rights.

Meanwhile, the federal government and university leaders are concurrently trying to tamp down on what the White House called an alarming rise in disturbing antisemitic incidents and threats to Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian students on college campuses. ED encouraged students to file a complaint with the department if they experienced or witnessed an institution discriminating against someone based on race, color, national origin, or ethnicity.

ED’s Office for Civil Rights only has jurisdiction over institutions that accept and distribute federal financial aid.