San Francisco State University Asks Judge to Dismiss Case Accusing School of Fostering Anti-Semitism

San Francisco State University student center
San Francisco State University student center / Wikimedia Commons
• August 22, 2017 4:18 pm


San Francisco State University has asked a federal judge to dismiss a case accusing the school of fostering anti-Semitism.

However, The legal team representing Jewish San Francisco State University students who have accused the school remained steadfast in the face of administrators moving to get the case thrown out.

"We stand behind the claims in our lawsuit," said Brooke Goldstein, director of pro-Israel think tank, the Lawfare Project.

The suit was filed in June by six plaintiffs, including two current students and a recent graduate. It charged SFSU with having for decades displayed "an extremely disturbing and consistent pattern of anti-Jewish animus."

"Jews are at best ignored, but more often ostracized in every corner of the university community," the suit claimed. Among the incidents listed were the intense protest of an on-campus speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in April 2016 and the exclusion of the school's Jewish center, Hillel, in a civil rights fair in February of this year.

On Monday, the school's lawyers asked a federal judge to dismiss the case, claiming administrators cannot control campus speech.

SFSU also maintained that freedom of religion had not been hindered on campus, and that even if it had "the source of that burden would be the actions of other students and groups at the university, who were also exercising core First Amendment rights that the university could not curtail."

The school's lawyers have insisted that officials acted in the interest of student safety during the Barkat incident, in which members of the SFSU student group General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) allegedly made "incessant threats" and chanted for an "intifada," the term for violent Palestinian uprisings against Israel. The suit claimed that officials contributed to the threatening environment by telling campus police to "stand down," and in taking no disciplinary action against the protesters beyond later issuing a warning. The suit also charged that the school acted with bias when it moved the lecture to an off-campus location.

The university lawyers also reportedly said Hillel could not participate in the fair because they had merely missed the registration deadline. However, in a seemingly contradictory statement made earlier this month, SFSU concluded an investigation determining Hillel "was improperly excluded" from that event, in an "unacceptable breach of the University's values, policies, and standards for inclusion and respect expected of all members of our University community."

Following Monday's action, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Lawrence M. Hill of Winston & Strawn LLP, said, "Their response to our complaint is just more of the same. SFSU has a responsibility to put in place systemic changes that uphold the civil rights of everyone on their campus."

Goldstein added, "[The claims] paint a picture of a pervasively hostile, anti-Semitic campus climate, fostered from the highest levels of the SFSU administration, in which Jewish students and community members fear for their safety and face persistent violations of their civil rights on campus."