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Republicans seek to hold colleges accountable for antisemitism

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(The Center Square) — Colleges and universities that don’t crack down on acts of antisemitism against students and faculty would face fines and other sanctions under a new bill filed by a group of Republican lawmakers.

The University Accountability Act, filed by nearly a dozen House Republicans, would fine tax-exempt schools that violate students’ civil rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The legislation comes in response to a wave of antisemitic protests on campuses in response to Israel’s war against the terrorist group Hamas.

The bill’s primary sponsor, New York Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, said the measure seeks to hold colleges accountable “with lofty financial punishments that would encourage them to investigate and crack down on instances of antisemitism and help foster a safer a safer academic environment for all students, regardless of their gender, race or religion.”

“Universities have a responsibility to protect their students from violence and discrimination and instead we’re seeing a disturbing increase in antisemitic attacks and rhetoric on college campuses,” Malliotakis said in a statement.

Under federal law, a violation of Title VI, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, can result in the loss of federal funds but usually result in a “mere corrective action” that would bring the college or university back into compliance, the GOP lawmakers said.

“If these schools are receiving generous tax benefits from the federal government at the expense of American taxpayers, they should be doing more than simply giving a slap on the wrist to perpetrators of hate,” Malliotakis said.

The proposal, if approved, would require colleges and universities that violate the law to pay a fine of 5% of the school’s aggregate administrative compensation as reported on the school’s Form 990, or $100,000, whichever is greater. After three civil rights violations, the Internal Revenue Service would be required to review the college or university’s tax-exempt status for possible revocation, according to the bill’s authors.

“Hardworking taxpayers have no interest in funding institutions that fail to protect their students from antisemitic rhetoric and behavior and this bill puts their tax-exempt status on the chopping block,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said in a statement.

Elite colleges and universities like Columbia, MIT and Harvard have been the scene of anti-Israel protests in response to Israel’s war in Gaza, prompted by the Oct. 7 attack by the terrorist group Hamas that killed 1,200 Israelis and injured many others. More than 2,500 demonstrators nationwide have been arrested at dozens of college campuses.

Their demands vary by college campus, but most are calling for an end to the Israel-Hamas war and divestment from companies with ties to Israel or that otherwise profit from its ongoing military operation in Gaza.

New York’s Columbia University, which has been at the epicenter of anti-Israel protests and antisemitic attacks, would be fined $1.9 million under the proposed restrictions, according to the lawmakers.

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