UC Santa Barbara: The Brandeis Center Helps Reverse a Hostile Environment for Jewish Students

University of California at Santa Barbara

University of California at Santa Barbara

As the University of California Santa Barbara’s student senate voted down an anti-Israel divestment measure in 2013, this campus seethed with anti-Semitic activity.

The Student Advocate General – whose job is to educate students about their rights as members of the campus community – said on the floor of the student senate: “Israel is harvesting organs in the Sinai Peninsula.”

A student wearing a Star of David necklace was spat on by another student, with the spit landing directly on the Star charm.

And someone in the weeks after the vote drew a swastika in black marker on a desk in the campus library, and wrote next to it: “Nazis of Isla Vista.”

Jewish UCSB students told a Louis D. Brandeis Center lawyer said that anti-Semitic incidents were not taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination on campus.

Based on the strong evidence that UCSB was creating a hostile campus environment for Jewish students, the Brandeis Center filed a Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VI complaint against the school with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Title VI prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs, including public universities, on the basis of race, color or national origin.

The Brandeis Center had several serious conversations with UCSB’s Chancellor about improving the campus climate for Jewish students.  When UCSB agreed to implement several school policy changes that addressed problems we had identified and to provide staff training on anti-Semitism, we withdrew our OCR complaint and congratulated the Chancellor on his efforts.

Several students have told us they are confident that these issues will not arise again. UCSB appears to be taking important steps to ensure a campus life that is safe and fair not just for Jewish students, but all students. We will continue to monitor the campus in the hope that UCSB will become a model for other universities facing similar challenges.


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