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‘Smells of arrogance’: Harvard sued for allegedly being ‘deliberately indifferent’ to antisemitism on campus


Daily Caller News Foundation

Two civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against Harvard University Wednesday alleging that the Ivy League institution had been ‘deliberately indifferent’ to acts of antisemitism on campus for years.

Universities have been hit with a wave of criticism in recent months over their handling of antisemitism following the Hamas terror attack in the Jewish state in October 2023 that left over 1,200 Israelis dead and prompted hundreds of pro-Palestinian protests. The lawsuit, which was filed by the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jewish Americans for Fairness in Education (JAFE), argues that Harvard not only has allowed antisemitism to run rampant for years but even more so since Oct. 7.

“In recent years, and especially in the last few months, Jewish and Israeli students have been subjected to cruel antisemitic bullying, harassment, and discrimination,” the lawsuit says. “And when Harvard is presented with incontrovertible evidence of antisemitic conduct, it ignores and tolerates it. Harvard’s permissive posture towards antisemitism is the opposite of its aggressive enforcement of the same anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies to protect other minorities. As Plaintiffs and their members have experienced, Harvard has been deliberately indifferent to the pervasive antisemitism on campus, creating an unbearable educational environment.”

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce opened an investigation into Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in December 2023 after the colleges’ presidents refused to clarify what was considered antisemitic behavior under their policies. The lawsuit, however, explains that Harvard’s troubled history with antisemitism began long before the investigation was opened.

The plaintiffs claim in the filing that a professor at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) told several Jewish and Israeli students, also referred to as HKS Members, that the “existence of a ‘Jewish state’” was equal “to ‘white supremacy,’ and threatened them with ‘consequences’ if they did not get on board with his material on the subject. The professor also allegedly forced the students to listen to “their classmates’ anti-Israeli diatribes.”

“The professor also encouraged the teaching fellows to conduct a class exercise on Palestinian solidarity, and the classmates taunted the HKS Members by organizing a class picture, in which they and teaching fellows wore ‘keffiyehs’ as a symbol of Palestinian support and opposition to the HKS Members’ identities,” according to the lawsuit. “The professor appeared in the picture as well. Administrators then circulated that photo to other HKS students.”

After the Jewish students complained, an investigation was launched and determined that the school had “created ‘a hostile learning environment,’ denied HKS Members ‘a learning environment free from bias,’  and ‘denigrated’ them ‘on the basis of their Israeli national origin and Jewish ethnicity and ancestry.’” Harvard did not dispute the findings but the plaintiffs claimed that the school’s leadership kept the disciplinary proceedings confidential and that the students are unaware if any action took place.

Additionally, one Jewish student was assaulted on Oct. 18 by a mob of “anti-Israel” protesters, who shouted “’Shame! Shame! Shame!’ in his face” and hit the student “in the neck,” according to the lawsuit. Despite footage showing the event and identifying the assailants, Harvard has reportedly taken no action against the individuals responsible, claiming that it must wait for a criminal investigation to conclude.

Ken Marcus, the founder and chairman of the Brandeis Center, told the DCNF that the Brandeis Center has made several attempts to encourage Harvard to take the problem of antisemitism seriously but that instead, the university has continued to tolerate “an awful environment for Jewish students going way back before October 7.”

“Harvard’s refusal to deal with antisemitism smells of arrogance,” Marcus explained. “They’ve heard over and over again, including from their own people, that they need to deal with the problem and yet they refuse to do so. It is as if they believe that they are above the law.”

Harvard did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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