RELEASE: Gottheimer Urges Department of Education to Take Action to Protect Religious Freedom on College Campuses — George Washington University Faculty Member Targeted Students for Being Jewish, Israeli

Feb 10, 2023
Press

WASHINGTON, D.C.

U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) urged the U.S. Department of Education to prioritize the rulemaking process for Title VI to ensure students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, or of another religious group are protected under federal law. 

Gottheimer’s letter to the Department of Education comes following a faculty member employed at George Washington University (GWU) targeted Jewish and Israeli students with antisemitic speech. A Title VI complaint was filed against the University in January 2023 following numerous reports from students that a GWU psychology professor repeatedly discriminated against and targeted Jewish and Israeli students based on their identities.

“While I appreciate your recent guidance to reinforce student Title VI discriminatory protections based on shared ancestry or ethnicity, the Department of Education must go further to begin the rulemaking process, ensuring students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, or of another religious group are protected under federal law,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) in a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Cardona. “I have been a strong proponent of taking all measures necessary to protect students against hate, discrimination, and bigotry — especially Jewish students who face a barrage of antisemitism on their college campuses. It is critical that these students not be singled out or made to feel unwelcome, and that universities uphold our values. After a year with historic levels of antisemitism, I ask the Department to prioritize the rulemaking process for Title VI.”

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:

The Honorable Dr. Miguel Cardona

Secretary Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue SW

Washington, DC  20202

Dear Secretary Cardona:

I write to bring to your attention yet another example of campus antisemitism and hateful rhetoric. In multiple interactions in the fall 2022 semester, a faculty member employed at George Washington University (GWU) targeted Jewish and Israeli students with antisemitic speech.[1] Just this month, this individual took to an online forum to espouse accusatory, hateful comments about Jewish students.[2] While I appreciate your recent guidance to reinforce student Title VI discriminatory protections based on shared ancestry or ethnicity, the Department of Education must go further to begin the rulemaking process, ensuring students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, or of another religious group are protected under federal law.

A Title VI complaint was filed against the University in January 2023 following numerous reports from students that GWU psychology professor repeatedly discriminated against and targeted Jewish and Israeli students based on their identities. This is not an isolated incident. 

Recent trends show that now, more than ever, there is widespread belief in anti-Jewish tropes and Israel-focused antisemitism. A recent report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), noted that in 2021, 85% of Americans believe at least one antisemitic trope, compared to 61% found in 2019.[[3]][[4]] ADL found that 40% of Americans at least slightly believe that Israel treats Palestinians like Nazis treated the Jews, and 18% of Americans shared they are uncomfortable spending time with a person who supports Israel.[5]

The Department of Education’s recent Title VI guidance is not enough. Since spring 2021, the Administration has delayed issuing a proposed rulemaking in response to Executive Order 13899 on Combating Anti-Semitism and Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. In fall 2021, the Administration moved the projected date for issuing notice and proposing regulation of Title VI from January 2022 to December 2022.

I have been a strong proponent of taking all measures necessary to protect students against hate, discrimination, and bigotry — especially Jewish students who face a barrage of antisemitism on their college campuses. It is critical that these students not be singled out or made to feel unwelcome, and that universities uphold our values. After a year with historic levels of antisemitism, I ask the Department to prioritize the rulemaking process for Title VI.

Our students deserve to be safe. I respectfully ask that you expedite rulemaking efforts, as this important step in combating hate is long overdue. Thank you for your ongoing work on this pressing matter and your responsiveness to this request. I look forward to continuing working with you and the Department of Education to support student safety in and out of the classroom.

Sincerely,

Josh Gottheimer

MEMBER OF CONGRESS


[1]https://www.timesofisrael.com/george-washington-university-probing-alleged-antisemitic-harassment-by-professor/ 

[2]https://www.counterpunch.org/2023/02/03/on-targeting-an-arab-woman/

[3]https://www.adl.org/resources/report/antisemitic-attitudes-america-topline-findings

[4]https://www.adl.org/resources/report/audit-antisemitic-incidents-2019

[5]https://www.adl.org/resources/report/antisemitic-attitudes-america-topline-findings

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