Republican Senators Accuse Colleges of Antisemitism in Letter to Education Department

The letter accuses the Department of Education of allowing “taxpayer-funded antisemitism” on college campuses.
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Updated on July 27, 2023
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  • The senators also allege that many academic programs infringe on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism.
  • The senators request an answer from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona by April 28.
  • The senators who sent the letter include Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Thom Tillis.

Fifteen Republican U.S. senators claim the Department of Education (ED) has allowed "taxpayer-funded antisemitism" on public college campuses.

The group of senators — which includes Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Mike Braun — sent a letter on March 8 to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The letter said many Near East and Middle East programs base a disproportionate amount of their curricula on viewpoints critical of Israel.

The senators allege ED has failed to enforce Title VI of the Higher Education Act.

Title VI says, "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

The letter alleges examples of antisemitism by the University of California, Los Angeles' Center for Near East Studies from 2010 to 2013; a New York University webinar featuring Leila Khaled, a member of a "U.S.-designated terror group"; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University's joint Middle Eastern Studies program.

The senators said criticizing Israel isn't antisemitic but that programs and professors meet several of the working definitions of antisemitism as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The definitions by the alliance and referred to by the senators include:

  • "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor."
  • "Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation."
  • "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis."

While Title VI does not explicitly include antisemitism, the Department of State adopted the non-legally binding definition on May 26, 2016.

The letter also cited a study from the AMCHA Initiative, which found that 160 academic departments at more than 120 U.S. colleges and universities issued or endorsed anti-Zionist statements.

"Unsurprisingly, a core reason college campuses are plagued by antisemitism is because professors who teach the curriculum indoctrinate students with anti-Israel bias and viewpoints," the letter said. "Because of the widespread antisemitism taking place on college campuses, many Jewish and pro-Israel students no longer feel safe."

The letter also alleges that ED does not evaluate Title VI applicants' statements regarding diverse perspectives despite collecting them. According to the Title VI Legal Manual, the Department of Justice (DOJ) requires reports for the past year's performance and plans for future implementation of Title VI.

"DOJ also can request information on the major components of an agency's civil rights enforcement program, including budget and staffing for external civil rights activities, complaint investigations, pre-award and post-award compliance reviews, regulatory and policy development, outreach and technical assistance, and training," the manual states.

The senators request that ED respond no later than April 28 to questions about compliance with Title VI.

"Taxpayer dollars should not fund antisemitism on college campuses, and Jewish and pro-Israel students should not feel afraid for being Jewish and expressing support for Israel," the letter said.