Jewish Students at U. Illinois File Education Department Complaint Over Campus Anti-Semitism

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign / Wikimedia Commons
October 23, 2020

Jewish students at the University of Illinois filed a formal complaint with the Department of Education alleging "an unrelenting campaign of anti-Semitic harassment" on campus, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The complaint, filed under the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring discrimination at institutions receiving federal funding, alleges that University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) officials systematically swept multiple instances of campus anti-Semitism under the rug. "Despite repeatedly being placed on notice of the developing hostile environment on UIUC’s campus, the UIUC administration has failed to take the measures necessary to provide Jewish and pro-Israel students with a discrimination-free academic setting," the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which is helping to handle the case, said in a statement.

During the past several years, Jewish students at UIUC have come under attack from pro-Palestinian activists, far-left student groups, and white supremacists. Swastikas have been painted across the campus and Jewish ritual items, such as menorahs and mezuzahs, have been vandalized. The campus’s Jewish fraternity houses also have been subject to attacks, including having bricks thrown through their windows. The complaint was filed seven months ago, but made public on Friday due to the school’s alleged refusal to address the matter.

The landmark complaint with the Education Department is the latest attempt by American Jewish students to ensure their safety on campus. Jewish students across the nation are increasingly under attack from liberal activists who oppose their support for Israel and belief in a Jewish homeland. Anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses have hit historic levels in recent years. Much of this activism has been tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged by professors intolerant of pro-Israel voices.

The Department of Education has been provided with a comprehensive list of anti-Semitic incidents at UIUC dating back to at least 2015. This includes the vandalization of campus Jewish centers, sidelining Jewish students from events due to their religion, and swastikas being repeatedly painted on dorm rooms and buildings populated by Jewish students.

Jewish and pro-Israel students at UIUC "are peppered with swastikas by white supremacists on the extreme right while being labeled white supremacists by the extreme left," according to a summary of the complaint.

As a recipient of federal funds, the school is required to address instances of discrimination based on religion and national origin. The school’s inability to police anti-Semitic activity serves as the complaint’s legal underpinning. The complaint alleges that efforts by UIUC leaders to stem the anti-Semitism have "been wholly inadequate." In some cases, according to the complaint, UIUC staff members were "complicit in fostering this hostility and discrimination."

Lawyers working on the case said they made the complaint public to bring greater awareness to the growing anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses.

"Jewish students at UIUC have been targeted for years," Alyza D. Lewin, an attorney and president of the Brandeis Center, said in a statement announcing the filing. "We gave UIUC seven months since the complaint was filed to address the ongoing harassment. In the face of continuous stall tactics and almost no action from the university, we decided to publicize our efforts."

Lawyers for the students also said that anti-Semitism is routinely tolerated on campus and not treated as seriously as attacks on other minority students. This, too, is a problem on other college campuses across the country, where attacks on Jewish students fail to garner headlines and are not dealt with by school administrators.