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Department of Education accuses the University of Michigan and CUNY of failing to protect their Jewish students

“Sadly, we have witnessed a series of deeply concerning incidents in recent months,” said senior official Miguel Cardona.

La gente sostiene pancartas mientras manifestantes pro palestinos se reúnen en el campus del City College de Nueva York

(Kena Betancur / AFP)

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The United States Department of Education (ED) announced Monday that the University of Michigan and the City University of New York (CUNY) failed to take appropriate action regarding reports of antisemitic discrimination on their respective campuses. Several resolutions were announced to address this issue.

After exhaustive investigations of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the ED, in response to concerns expressed by Jewish students about harassment and, in some cases, physical violence after the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, it was determined that neither institution met the standards required to protect its students from discrimination based on “shared ancestry,” ethnic characteristics, or national origin under Title VI of federal law.

University of Michigan

In the case of the University of Michigan, the department’s OCR examined 75 reports of harassment and discrimination based on shared ancestry from the 2022-23 school year through February 2024.

The review revealed that the university did not adequately assess whether the incidents were creating a hostile environment on campus or take effective steps to prevent future episodes of harassment. For example, provocative chants were used during antisemitic protests that were not adequately addressed. Additionally, when cases of harassment against Jewish students on social media were reported, the university’s response was limited, citing free speech protections on digital platforms.

City University of New York

OCR’s investigation into CUNY spanned multiple complaints at several of its campuses, including Hunter College, CUNY School of Law, Brooklyn College, Queens College, and Baruch College, from the 2019-2020 academic year to date.

In particular, serious problems were encountered at Hunter College, where Jewish students were dissuaded from actively participating in classes due to interruptions by other students and professors calling for the “decolonization” of Palestine. This situation generated fear among some students, resulting in the early departure of at least one of them from class. OCR also noted that the university failed to conduct adequate interviews with affected students or communicate the results of its investigation transparently.

“Sadly, we have witnessed a series of deeply concerning incidents in recent months. There’s no question that this is a challenging moment for school communities across the country,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

Resolutions announced

In response to these concerns, the department’s OCR issued the first concrete steps to ensure compliance with Title VI. The OCR requires several actions from institutions, including improving complaint management, providing employees with training on how to investigate incidents and training campus security staff. Additionally, the institutions have been ordered to resolve all outstanding complaints and conduct a “climate assessment” survey to measure the incidence of discrimination and harassment based on race, color, and national origin among students and staff.