The U.S. Department of Education is investigating several colleges and universities over reports of antisemitic activity. The federal agency said allowing that kind of behavior could risk the educational institution’s federal funding.
The DOE sent a letter to all colleges and universities earlier this month reminding them of the Title VI provision requiring the institutions to create an educational environment free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity or ancestry.
“Hate has no place in our schools, period. When students are targeted because they are—or are perceived to be—Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, or any other ethnicity or shared ancestry, schools must act to ensure safe and inclusive educational environments where everyone is free to learn,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
The investigations are ongoing. The DOE said in a press release that schools that refuse to address these issues “can ultimately lose federal funding or be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for further action.”
Adam Kissel, an education expert at the Heritage Foundation, told The Center Square, that while no university has lost its funding over this kind of issue, the schools always eventually comply with the federal government because the threat of lost funding is an “existential threat.”
“No university has actually lost its funding over a civil rights issue,” Kissel said.
The rise in on-campus protests and tension over this issue comes after the Oct. 7 attack by the terror group Hamas, which left more than 1,400 dead and hundreds of hostages, including Americans.
“Many university leaders failed to show moral clarity after Hamas barbarically attacked Israel, so it is no surprise to see allegations that their universities failed to address civil rights issues on their own campuses,” Kissel said.
Israel has responded with bombings and incursions into Gaza which have left their own unclear death toll and destroyed much of Gaza’s buildings. Israel’s response has sparked backlash, but the issue has been ongoing for decades between the two groups so far with little resolve.
One student at Cornell University, Patrick Dai, was arrested and charged for allegedly threatening in graphic detail to kill Jewish people, including babies.
In another notable on-campus controversy, a group of 30 Harvard student groups signed a letter blaming Israel for the Hamas attacks, sparking major backlash and withdrawal of donor support for Harvard. The identity of those students was later apparently made public after many businesses publicly said they would not want to hire such a student.
Harvard President Claudine Gay also issued a statement distancing the institution from the letter, saying those students do not speak for Harvard. Soon, thousands of faculty, alum, and students had signed on to a statement blasting the original letter.
Harvard, though, does not appear to be under investigation from the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights on this issue. According to the federal database, below are the colleges, universities and school districts with open investigations around discrimination based on ancestral heritage that began since the Oct. 7 attacks though are not necessarily related:
Hillsborough County SchoolsUniversity of TampaColumbia UniversityCornell UniversityLafayette CollegeMaize Unified School DistrictWellesley CollegeUniversity of PennsylvaniaThe Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and ArtWilson County SchoolsCommunity School of Davidson
Kissel argues the antisemitism is part of a bigger problem with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs on college campuses which have ballooned in recent years.
“DEI offices generally treat people in terms of identity groups rather than as individuals, and they often divide students more than they unite students,” he told The Center Square. “University leaders should not trust DEI offices to properly address antisemitic incidents on campus.”
Earlier this month, the White House warned of both antisemitism and Islamophobia since the Oct. 7 attacks.
House Republicans led a hearing earlier this month entitled, “Confronting the Scourge of Antisemitism on Campus” where Republicans largely echoed the idea that DEI in schools is to blame.
“The modern form of antisemitism is more subtle, for it is often disguised under progressive political innuendos,” Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, who chairs the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, said at the hearing. “For example, Offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion steeped deeply in the doctrine of Marxism are anything but inclusive for Jews. Evidence shows that campus DEI bureaucracies play a major role in propagating the spread of antisemitism.”