The Education Department has started school probes into alleged antisemitism and Islamophobia

Students for Justice in Palestine: a network of chapters condemns antisemitism and hate crimes on Cornell, Columbia, Cooper Union and Cornell

The federal government opened discrimination investigations this week into half a dozen universities, including Columbia, Cooper Union and Cornell in New York, following complaints about antisemitic and anti-Muslim harassment after the Israel-Hamas war broke out.

Also this month, a student at Cornell University was arrested and charged with making violent antisemitic threats, leading the university to cancel classes for a day. The campus was visited earlier this month by Kathy Hochul, the Gov., who condemned the threats. Cornell did not respond to the request for comment.

According to the Education Department, the schools being investigated include the Maize Unified School District, a public district in Kansas, Cornell University and Columbia University in New York, Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania, Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a private college in New York City. Thursday evening schools could not be reached for comment. But several have condemned discrimination after incidents had been reported on campus.

“Hate is not allowed in our schools, period,” the Education Secretary said in the announcement. “When students are targeted based on their race, religion, or ancestry, schools have a responsibility to make sure everyone is free to learn.”

The Students for Justice in Palestine network of chapters is a little different from other national campus groups. There are no national headquarters or named leaders. There is a steering committee for students that is not public. The group has not registered as a nonprofit, nor has it ever needed to file tax documents.

Pro-Israel groups worry that the flat structure will make them more vulnerable to the network driving antisemitism on campuses. A 2016 report from the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis asserted that the presence of a chapter on a campus was “one of the strongest predictors of perceiving a hostile climate toward Israel and Jews.”

A news release from the Office for Civil Rights states that the Biden administration has begun investigations to address the alarming nationwide rise in reports of anti- Muslim, anti-Arab and other forms of discrimination.

Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary of education for civil rights, said that the appearance of a school on the list does not “reflect a conclusion that the law has been violated.”

University of Pennsylvania, Cooper Union, and N.Y.U. are investigating the antisemitism controversy over the August 24th Jerusalem atomic bomb attack

The conflict over the war has been particularly bitter in New York, which is seeing almost daily demonstrations. The number of hate crime in October was more than double that of the previous October. Antisemitic incidents more than tripled.

At Cooper Union, a confrontation between opposing sides, in which pro-Palestinian students banged on the doors and windows of a library where Jewish students had relocated after a demonstration, became part of the national conversation about the war. There were no arrests or summonses as a result of the incident, the police said.

Ben Chang, a spokesman for Columbia, said the university had received notification from the civil rights office “and will cooperate with any investigation.”

A task force on antisemitism and a group to support individuals with personal information posted online were announced last month by Columbia.

The University of Pennsylvania was facing backlash over the Palestinian conference it hosted before the war broke out. The campus has been critiqued by different sides over its response.

On Wednesday, N.Y.U. announced it would create a Center for the Study of Antisemitism. John Beckman said Wednesday that the claims made in the suit were not accurate. N.Y.U. was not listed one of the institutions the federal agency is investigating.

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