Feds Seek Diversity in Middle East Studies Programs

The Department of Education has started requiring universities that receive federal funding for Middle East Studies centers to report on how their programs are including diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.  This is a very important first step to ensure that Middle East Studies programs do not succumb to political one-sidedness.  For several years, critics have charged that many of these programs have become highly politicized, monolithically anti-Israel sources of miseducation and bias. The new requirement sends a welcome signal to universities that the Department is now looking more closely at this issue, although there is still more to be done in order to ensure accountability for these programs.

Title VI of the Higher Education Act (HEA) contains provisions for funding area studies programs at post-secondary institutions.  Title VI requires that the area studies programs that receive funding must represent “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.”  However, in practice these programs often do not actually represent diverse perspectives and a wide range of views, with the troubling result that many Middle East Studies programs end up promoting views which are politically one-sided against Israel.

Previously, schools only had to state their intention of fulfilling the diverse perspectives requirement in their initial application and were subject to “no measure of accountability after receiving taxpayer funding” through Title VI, a problem that the Brandeis Center and our colleagues identified in our Joint Statement on the Misuse of Federal Funds under Title VI. The Center had urged the Department to consider adding a diverse perspectives reporting requirement for grantees to ensure greater accountability.  LDB has also recommended that the Department monitor institutions that receive Title VI funding in our publication The Morass of Middle East Studies: Title VI of the Higher Education Act and Federally Funded Area Studies.

LDB Urges University of Central Florida To Publicly Condemn Anti-Semitic Postings

UCFcampusToday, LDB joined the AMCHA Initiative and 32 other organizations issuing a letter in response to a series of anti-Semitic stickers and flyers that were found at the University of Central Florida (UCF) campus. The letter urges UCF President John C. Hitt to publicly condemn the postings as blatant acts of anti-Semitism, publicly commit to educating university staff and students about anti-Semitism, hate crimes and anti-Jewish education, as well as to formally adopt the U.S State Department’s Definition of Anti-Semitism.

ucfPic1Multiple anti-Semitic stickers and flyers where found during the week of November 15 inside and nearby several UCF dormitories. They contained various forms of anti-Semitic imagery, such as swastikas and classic anti-Semitic caricatures. Although the UCF administration has vowed to find the perpetrator(s) responsible for the distribution and creation of these postings, there has not been any public condemnation of these incidents as anti-Semitic by any UCF administrator in the weeks since they appeared. 

“With the growing problem of campus anti-Semitism across the country, incidents such this are of great concern. They implicitly and explicitly encourage hate and violence against Jews, and can create a threating environment for Jewish students” LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “It is crucial that university administrations take a strong stance against hatred and bigotry and be committed to protecting all members of their campus community. We hope that the UCF administration will seriously consider our recommendations to deter future acts of anti-Semitic hate, and demonstrate their commitment to protecting Jewish students and all students on their campus.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

 

President John C. Hitt 

Office of the President
University of Central Florida
P.O. Box 160002
Orlando, FL 32816-0002

 

Dear President Hitt,

We are 34 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people who are very concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of Central Florida. 

We are writing to you today because we remain deeply troubled by virulently antisemitic stickers and flyers which were posted on your campus inside and nearby several UCF dormitories during the week of November 15.  The postings included the following:

Students Supporting Israel at Indian University Passes Resolution Adopting the U.S State Department Definition of Anti-Semitism in Student Government.

IndianaOn Tuesday, December 2, Students Supporting Israel at Indian University passed a resolution in its student government that adopts the United States’ State Department’s Definition of Anti-Semitism.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that the resolution passed at the Student Association Congress meeting by a vote of 22-6, with six abstentions.

The resolution states that, “the Indiana University Student Association adopts the definition of anti-Semitism as stated above as well as the State Department’s understanding of Anti-Semitism relative to Israel” The Indiana University Student Association commented, stating they recognize “that the Jewish people, like all peoples, have a collective right to self-determination, and considers attempts to undermine these rights, including the global BDS Movement against Israel, to be a form of bigotry”

It also cites the Marcus Policy, initiated by LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus in 2004 during his tenure at the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights. This policy extended Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects students from discrimination based on their race, color, or national origin at federally funded post-secondary educational institutions, to protect Jewish students based on their ethnic or ancestral background.

LDB Law Student Statement in Support of Professor Ami Pedahzur

This morning, students from eighteen Brandeis Center law student chapters issued a statement in support of Dr. Ami Pedahzur, an Israel Studies professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Pedahzur had been assailed by anti-Israel activists for his effort to host an academic presentation on the Israeli Defense Forces. The full statement can be found below: November…

New Books in Jewish Studies: Interview with Kenneth L. Marcus

Recently, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus gave an enlightening interview to Jason Shulman for the New Books in Jewish Studies podcast series. The interview focused not only on Marcus’ new book, The Definition of Anti-Semitism, but also on the troubling resurgence of anti-Semitism in American higher education. In his interview, Marcus explains his motivation for…

Brandeis Center Urges CUNY to Condemn Anti-Semitism

On Friday, November 13, the Brandeis Center issued a letter to CUNY Vice Chancellor Frank Sanchez, and CUNY Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, urging them to strongly condemn recent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the CUNY system, specifically, the “Million Student March” at Hunter College that took place on Thursday, November 12. The NYC Students for Justice in Palestine Facebook event for the rally used anti-Semitic terminology to link the financial concerns of the CUNY student body to CUNY’s so-called “Zionist administration.” At the rally itself, student protestors chanted things like, “Zionists out of CUNY! Zionists out of CUNY,” and “Intifada! Intifada! Long live the Intifada.” The Brandeis Center calls on CUNY to condemn such behavior. The text of the letter is below:

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November 13, 2015

 

Dr. Frank D. Sanchez
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, CUNY
205 E. 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
frank.sanchez@cuny.edu

President Jennifer J. Raab
Hunter College, CUNY
695 Park Ave
NY, NY 10065
president@hunter.cuny.edu

 

VIA E-MAIL

 

Dear Vice Chancellor Sanchez and President Raab:

We write on behalf of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), a national public interest advocacy organization established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all; and the LDB Law Student Chapter at CUNY Law School. As a national organization, we fight campus anti-Semitism through legal advocacy, and often work with university administrators nationwide to offer best practices on how to combat and prevent anti-Semitism on their campuses. We have been concerned about several recent incidents of troubling anti-Semitism, as well as anti-Semitism thinly-veiled as anti-Israelism, in the CUNY system. Just last week, we issued a letter to President Karen Gould about the need to speak out against troubling anti-Semitic activity and free speech issues at Brooklyn College. Today, we write out of concern over the “Million Student March” that took place on Thursday, November 12, at Hunter College.

As you are likely aware, the “Million Student March” is a nationwide campaign demanding tuition-free education and a host of other alleged inalienable rights. The “Million Student March” rally aimed at the CUNY system that took place at Hunter College on Thursday was endorsed on Facebook by NYC Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and five SJP chapters in CUNY schools – Hunter College, Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island, John Jay College, and CUNY School of Law – and differed from the national movement in that, in addition to calling for a tuition-free education and other things, the groups used anti-Semitic slurs to link the financial concerns of CUNY students to its “Zionist administration.” The Facebook event stated,

The Zionist administration invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine, and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY through Zionist content of education. While CUNY aims to produce the next generation of professional Zionists, SJP aims to change the university to fight for all peoples liberation.

At the rally itself, students chanted things including, “Zionists out of CUNY! Zionists out of CUNY,” and “Intifada! Intifada! Long live the Intifada.”

While we respect the right of all members of the university community to express their opinions in accordance with the First Amendment, hateful and bigoted speech should be strongly condemned by university administrations. When speakers engage in hateful speech, administrators can use such situations as teachable moments and issue a strong public statement, reiterating the values of the campus community and showing the administration’s support of targeted or affected students. The best such responses tend to share certain characteristics, such as responding with specificity, prominence, balance, and courage; putting the event into context; following up and firmly applying sanctions; and providing outreach to the targeted group. This is discussed in LDB’s “Best Practice Guide for Combating Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism” (see attached).

House Unanimously Passes Bipartisan Resolution Urging Europe to Combat Anti-Semitism

On Tuesday, November 3rd, the House unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution urging European countries to protect the security of their Jewish populations in the face of rising anti-Semitism. The resolution was introduced with the help of Rep. Peter Roskam, and his colleagues on the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism. Passed 418-0, the measure notes that…

LDB Urges University of Missouri to Condemn Anti-Semitic Incident

University_of_Missouri_sealThe Brandeis Center, together the AMCHA Initiative and several other organizations, has urged the University of Missouri to respond to anti-Semitic graffiti found in one of University’s residence halls. The joint letter urges MU administration to take a stronger stance to publicly condemn this incident: 


Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin

Office of the Chancellor
105 Jesse Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO  65211 
 
Dear Chancellor Loftin,
 
We are 36 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people who are very concerned about the safety and well-being of Jewish students at the University of Missouri. Many of our organizations wrote to you last spring expressing our concern over two separate incidents of antisemitic graffiti discovered at MU, as well as over an Honors Tutorial entitled “Perspectives on Zionism” which was scheduled to be taught in the Fall of 2015 by MU Biology professor George Smith, a well-known anti-Zionist. 
 
We are writing to you today because we are troubled by reports of a swastika drawn out of feces, which was found on the wall of a bathroom in Gateway Hall on October 24.
 
While we applaud Residence Halls Association President William Donley, an MU student, for releasing a statement strongly condemning the vandalism and labeling it antisemitic and “an act of hate,”  we are dismayed that neither you nor any other MU administrator has yet to publicly address this act of blatant antisemitism, which clearly targets Jewish students and causes them to feel threatened and unsafe. 
 
We know that just last month, the morning after MU students were harassed by someone using racist and hateful speech, you issued a vigorous condemnation of the incident, even sharing with the campus community a recorded message expressing your outrage over what had happened and your commitment to “end hatred and racism at Mizzou”. You also described substantive steps, including educational initiatives, that your administration would be taking to address the problem of racism on your campus.  We commend you for your prompt, vigorous and comprehensive response to this act of racism.  At the same time, we urge you to treat blatant acts of anti-Jewish bigotry, such as a swastika smeared in feces on a dormitory wall, no less promptly, vigorously and comprehensively.
 
In addition, just as the MU Equity Office has acknowledged that certain kinds of expression constitute microaggressions that can cause members of targeted racial, ethnic and gender groups to feel discriminated against and harassed, it is no less important to acknowledge that certain kinds of anti-Israel expression that demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and call for its elimination not only create a hostile environment for many Jewish students, but may foster acts of blatant antisemitism such as swastikas.  
 
Of particular concern in this regard is the departmental sponsorship and implicit ideological endorsement of virulently anti-Israel events. For example, in November 2014 a talk by Saree Makdisi calling for the elimination of the Jewish state was sponsored by 6 MU departments along with the University Lectures Committee and the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative; in April 2015 a panel discussion entitled “Palestine in Context,” during which MU Professor George Smith called for an end to Zionism, was sponsored by one MU department; and “Racism in Israel“, an upcoming talk by noted anti-Zionist David Sheen, who compares Israeli Jews to Nazis, is being sponsored by two MU departments. Pope Francis, President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and French Prime Minister Valls have all stated that denying Israel’s right to exist, as some departmentally-sponsored MU speakers have, is antisemitism. 
 
We encourage you to demonstrate unequivocally your commitment to protecting Jewish students no less than other students on your campus, by doing the following:
  • Swiftly, forcefully and publicly acknowledge that swastika graffiti is an act of antisemitism and will not be tolerated on campus. 
  • Publicly commit to educating University staff, including campus police, in identifying antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes.
  • Formally adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of antisemitism to fully and accurately identify all future acts of hate toward Jews and draw the distinction between acceptable criticism of Israel’s policies and calls for the destruction of Israel which are unquestionably antisemitic and breed additional antisemitism.
  • Allocate resources and publicly commit to educating students about antisemitism and anti-Jewish discrimination.
Thank you for considering our recommendations.  We look forward to working with you to protect Jewish students at the University of Missouri. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi)
Alums for Campus Fairness
AMCHA Initiative
American Institute for Jewish Research
Americans for Peace and Tolerance
BEAR: Bias Education, Advocacy & Resources
Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
Club Z
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
CUFI on Campus
David Horowitz Freedom Center
Davis Faculty for Israel
Eagles Wings
Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET)
Fuel For Truth
Hasbara Fellowships
Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel
Iranian American Jewish Federation
Israel Peace Initiative (IPI)
Jewish Law Students Association at UCLA
Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA)
National Conference on Jewish Affairs
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations   
Project Genesis
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi 
Simon Wiesenthal Center  
StandWithUs
Students and Parents Against Campus Anti-Semitism
Students Supporting Israel at UCLA
Students Supporting Israel at University of Missouri
The Israel Christian Nexus
The Israel Group
The Israel Institute
Training and Education About the Middle East (T.E.A.M.)
Zionist Organization of America

European Sociological Association Passes New Anti-Boycott Guidelines

In August, the European Social Association (ESA), an academic association of sociologists and a non-profit Europe-wide association made up of over 2000 member scholars, approved ethical guidelines holding that “its members, conference participants and partners are not to be discriminated against in any way, direct or indirect, including boycott of themselves or their institutions, based on…