Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the Rutgers/Medium incident and more generally on Title VI, the federal statute that allows groups like the ZOA to sue universities like Rutgers if they don’t feel the school is doing enough to protect students from anti-Semitism.
The article probes a number of questions, not all succesfully: Can Title VI be used too indiscriminately, and tag as anti-Semitic behavior or statements that are merely anti-Israel? Will its use backfire on Jewish students, and cause them to be portrayed as enemies of academic freedom?
A couple of things stand out in the article’s treatment of Rutgers and New Jersey. The article reports on the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which “plans at its annual assembly next month to vote on a resolution stating that complaints of anti-Semitism should not be filed hastily with the Education Department, even if they are a valuable tool.” According to the article:
Although the public-affairs council’s resolution is expected to pass easily, its language warning against the overuse of discrimination complaints is strongly opposed by the Jewish Federation in Detroit and two local federations in New Jersey. Another group, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, has offered a substitute resolution arguing that Title VI enforcement poses no threat to free speech.
Which two federations (although I am guessing Northern NJ is one of them)? We’re trying to find out.
The article also discusses whether Rutgers is being uinfairly portrayed as a hotbed of anti-Semitism. The article notes, without quite dwelling on the fact, that a lot of the complaints about anti-Semitism seem to circle back to Aaron Marcus, both the target of The Medium satire and the subject of the bulk of the ZOA’s Title VI complaint agaisnt the school. The article quotes Gregory S. Blimling, the university’s vice president for student affairs, saying “what he hears is not anti-Semitism but disagreement over Israel’s policies. ‘There are people on both sides of that debate,” he says, ‘who would like to have the other side of that argument not have the same freedoms they do.’”
Mr. Blimling, the university’s vice president for student affairs, says two lawyers and other university personnel have spent “hundreds of man-hours” providing the civil-rights office with requested documents and testimony. “It is noteworthy,” he says, “that we have 6,000 Jewish students on campus, and we have had one student issue a complaint.”
But the last word goes to students and administrators at Hillel, who offer contrasting, if not conflicting, accounts of the campus climate:
As students gathered at the university’s Hillel House this month for dinner during Passover most described the campus environment as extremely supportive of Jewish students, and few said they had experienced any anti-Semitism except for a recent protest outside the house by pro-Palestinian students.
Mr. [Andrew] Getraer, executive director of the Hillel chapter, says that while the vast majority of Jewish students do not experience anti-Semitism at Rutgers, “for a number of students who are very active in the pro-Israel community, it has become hostile.” Most, he says, are afraid to complain.
He blames the recent article in The Medium, falsely depicting Aaron Marcus as praising Hitler—an article that top officials on the campus have denounced as distasteful and deeply offensive, and which the Zionist Organization of America may try to incorporate into its federal complaint—on the university’s administration. “It became open season” on the student when his earlier concerns about anti-Semitism went unheeded, Mr. Getraer says.
“When things happen to Jewish students and there are no repercussions whatsoever,” he says, “it creates an atmosphere that just escalates.”