The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Williams College for discrimination against Jewish students after the student government declined to recognize a pro-Israel student group.
The Office for Civil Rights' Boston accepted a complaint filed by George Mason University law professor David Bernstein which accused the College Council of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the College Fix reports. Title VI prohibits "discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics."
The College Council voted to deny recognition to the Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) on April 23. Unlike other meetings of the Council, this one was not livestreamed and meeting minutes did not identify speakers by name.
WIFI was the first applicant to be denied recognition in more than a decade, even though it met the requisite bylaws. According to the Fix, the Council's decision "sparked a wave of outrage among Jewish groups and even the Williams administration, which cited the minutes as evidence that council members voted down WIFI because it supports Israel's existence."
In his complaint, Bernstein accused the student government of opposing WIFI over its support of Israel.
"92% of American Jews support Israel, and support for Israel is a bedrock platform of mainstream Jewish organizations, including Hillel that serves Jewish students. Discriminating against a student group organized by Jewish students for the purpose of supporting Israel constitutes discrimination against Jewish students on the basis of ethnicity or race. The antisemitic statements made in the course of the debate, as well as the unusual procedures undertaken, provide evidence of anti-Jewish motive," Bernstein wrote.
Anti-Semitic statements included claims that Israel was guilty of genocide, "a charge so facially absurd and contrary to facts that it can only be explained by antisemitism, and is resonant of historical blood libel," Bernstein wrote.
The Williams administration voted last month to recognize WIFI in a process mostly separated from the College Council.