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Melanie Graysmith
Melanie Graysmith

Original Article

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UC Santa Cruz under federal investigation for anti-Semitism, hostile environment

By Melanie Graysmith, examiner.com San Francisco
March 15, 2011

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has begun an investigation into the claims of Anti-Semitism at the University of California at Santa Cruz. This investigation has just been announced by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR). A lecturer at the school, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, filed a complaint in June 2009 that alleges the university was lax in addressing a hostile environment affecting Jewish students at the school. Although the complaint was filed a few years ago, the OCR deliberated as it examined the issue and has determined the case has enough merit for an investigation.

In the complaint to OCR, Lecturer Rossman-Benjamin describes a vile campus environment where Jewish students are harassed, intimidated and frightened. As has been witnessed at other California campuses, university sponsored events malign and denigrate Israel while professors use their position to openly show their personal hated and hostility toward the Jewish state, and in turn toward Jewish students. As at campuses across the country on this issue, some professors have used their pedestal standings to spread self-serving hatred as pseudo-fact. Rossman-Benjamin stated that "no other...group on campus has been subjected...to such hostile and demonizing criticism."

The timing of this investigation is significant, as Kenneth L. Marcus, former OCR chief and now the head of the Anti-Semitism Initiative at IJCR explains: “This case is extremely significant for four reasons. First, it is opened just as International Apartheid Week activities are being held around the world and illustrates the potential ramifications of extremist protest activities. Second, it follows right on the heels of a federal lawsuit alleging similar problems at the University of California Berkeley just a few days before and may illustrate a broad trend. Third, it is only the second major systemic anti-Semitism case that OCR has opened and may have important precedential value. Fourth, it is the first major case to follow OCR’s new campus anti-Semitism policy and may demonstrate whether OCR means what it says about its commitment to addressing hate and bias in federally funded higher education programs.”

This investigation is way overdue, as Jewish students have experienced, and other rational campus followers have witnessed, bullying and cruelty over the years. Historically, episodes of harassment, intimidation and fear aimed at Jews is not new, but within a supposedly educated environment may point to the lack of quality teachers as leaders on American campuses.

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