In the halls of UC Berkeley, a storm is brewing. Two Jewish organizations have taken the university and its law school to court, alleging a rampant and unchecked wave of antisemitism.
The Louis D. Brandeis Center and Jewish Americans for Fairness in Education claim that the university’s inaction has fostered an environment of anti-Jewish hatred, a situation they say has worsened since the Hamas attack on Israel.
The lawsuit alleges that at least 23 student organizations at the law school have enacted policies that discriminate against and exclude Jewish students, faculty, and scholars. They claim the university’s leaders have turned a blind eye, flouting both UC rules and U.S. law, and enabling the normalization of anti-Jewish hatred on campus.
The university, however, begs to differ. Dan Mogulof, an assistant vice chancellor at Berkeley, insists that the university has long been committed to confronting antisemitism and supporting its Jewish community.
This lawsuit comes at a time when the nation is grappling with the Israel-Hamas war and allegations of antisemitism on college campuses. It’s a debate that has reached the highest echelons of academia, with the presidents of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT being summoned to Congress to address the issue.
The lawsuit cites several disturbing incidents, including a Jewish student draped in an Israeli flag being attacked by protesters, a lecturer subjecting freshmen to an 18-minute “anti-Israeli rant,” and Jewish staff and faculty receiving hate emails calling for their gassing and murder.
The plaintiffs argue that the university must take action under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. They’re asking the court to order Berkeley to stop student organizations from excluding Jews, enforce its nondiscrimination policy, and take action to end the hostile environment on campus.
In response, Mogulof acknowledges the distressing nature of the demonstrations but maintains that the university doesn’t have a legal right to stop protests. He assures that the school is offering counseling and academic support to affected students.
The lawsuit also alleges that JAFE members, including law professors at Berkeley, are prevented from speaking on campus because of their Jewish identity, denying them compensation and opportunities to enhance their reputations.
Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of Berkeley Law, however, has called the lawsuit’s depiction of the law school “stunningly inaccurate” and a disregard of the First Amendment.
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