Righting a wrong
April 25, 2012
The vile op-ed praising Hitler, which The Medium, a Rutgers University student paper, published and falsely attributed to Rutgers student Aaron Marcus, is just the latest in a series of anti-Semitic attacks on Mr. Marcus. Other Jewish students have been victimized on campus as well. Rutgers’ response to campus anti-Semitism has been so abysmal that students supported a civil rights complaint against the university filed by the Zionist Organization of America. The complaint is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to determine whether Rutgers violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
Recently, Rutgers formed an “Advisory Council on Jewish Student Life,” and invited Jewish campus and community leaders to participate. The first meeting is on April 25, 2012. We assume this Council was formed at least in part to show the community — and the Office for Civil Rights — that Rutgers is in fact adequately addressing Jewish students’ concerns.
Several deeply troubling issues should be first and foremost on the Council’s agenda.
• Aaron Marcus has been subjected to several repeated anti-Semitic attacks that have not been adequately resolved. One student threatened Mr. Marcus’ life, an infraction considered so severe that it could warrant even expulsion from the university. Why didn’t Rutgers thoroughly investigate the incident and why was the wrongdoer simply given a warning?
• Mr. Marcus was physically threatened and subjected to anti-Semitic name-calling by a university employee, the Outreach Coordinator for Rutgers’ Middle East Studies Center. How in the world is the Outreach Coordinator still employed at Rutgers? And how is Rutgers remedying the problem that Jewish pro-Israel students do not feel welcome at the Center?
• Jewish and pro-Israel students were discriminated against at an Israel-bashing campus event sponsored by a student group called BAKA. The event was supposed to be free and open to the public. But when large numbers of Jewish and pro-Israel activists came to protest, an admissions fee was suddenly imposed and selectively enforced against anyone perceived to be Jewish and pro-Israel. Everyone else got in for free. BAKA sponsored the event, advertised it as free, and enforced the discriminatory policy. Why hasn’t Rutgers held BAKA accountable? And why didn’t Rutgers investigate and resolve all of the bias complaints that Jewish students filed in response to the discrimination they suffered, which violated university policy?
We urge the Council members to insist that Rutgers leadership address all these problems. The failure to do so thus far surely helped create a campus environment that made it permissible for The Medium to target and publicly ridicule a Jewish student simply because he is vocal about his support for Israel.
The Council should call on Rutgers to commit to a university-wide campaign to end campus anti-Semitism. That means first publicly acknowledging that the problem exists and has caused great harm and pain to members of the community. It means publicly condemning campus anti-Semitism whenever it occurs, and also condemning the perpetrators. It means educating the university community about the meaning and effect of anti-Semitism, which includes the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. And it means committing to finally redressing the wrongs that have been committed against Jewish students at Rutgers, consistent with the rules and values of the university, as well as the requirements of the law.
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
Director, Center for Law and Justice
Zionist Organization of America
New York, NY
Editor’s note: A commentary by Mort Klein and Susan Tuchman on the use of Title VI appears here.