Education Dept. Launches Investigation Into Anti-Semitism at University of Illinois

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign / YouTube screenshot
November 17, 2020

The Department of Education launched an investigation into a series of anti-Semitic incidents at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, school officials said on Monday. 

Three prominent Jewish groups filed a complaint against the school with the department's Office for Civil Rights this spring, the Chicago Tribune reported. The complaint lists more than 30 allegations of anti-Semitism at the university over the past five years, including the vandalism of Jewish religious ornaments, swastikas spray-painted on campus buildings, and heated attacks from anti-Israel student groups.   

The Department of Education informed the school of the investigation on Friday. 

The complaint notes members of the university's Students for Justice in Palestine have harassed pro-Israel students by calling them "colonizers," "Nazis," and "white supremacists." Last year, the group also gave resident advisers a presentation called "Palestine & Great Return March: Palestinian Resistance to 70 Years of Israeli Terror."

In addition to the anti-Semitism claims included in the complaint, the Washington Free Beacon reported in September that students sneaked anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions measures into a student government resolution against racism. Students demanded the school "divest" from companies with ties to Israel, including Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar Inc.

The University of Illinois released a joint statement on Monday alongside several Jewish groups, including the Jewish United Fund of Chicago, Hillel International, and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law—the three organizations that filed the complaint against the university. In the statement, the school condemned anti-Semitism and pledged to create an advisory council to represent Jewish students before the spring semester. 

Across the country, anti-Israel activism has coincided with an uptick of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses. Last month, students found a swastika on the steps of a Columbia University library just nine days after students passed a measure calling on the school to divest from Israel.

Jews were the leading target of anti-religious hate crimes last year, according to recent FBI statistics. Anti-Semitic hate crimes nationwide have increased by more than 50 percent since 2014. 

Published under: Anti-Semitism