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NYU sued by students over ‘egregious’ antisemitism on campus

NYU sued by students over ‘egregious’ antisemitism on campus
People walk by New York University as tensions between supporters of Palestine and Israel increase on college campuses across the nation on October 30, 2023 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Three Jewish students at New York University sued the school on Tuesday, claiming it failed to protect them from “egregious” antisemitism that has worsened since the Israel-Hamas war began.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, claims the university must take action under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on race, color or national origin. 

“Mobs of students, often accompanied and encouraged by professors, have been given carte blanche to harass and intimidate NYU’s Jewish population,” according to the complaint. “As a result of NYU’s actions and inactions, antisemitism at NYU now thrives like never before.”

An NYU spokesperson said the university looks forward to setting the record straight and prevailing in court.

“The assertions in this suit do not accurately describe conditions on our campus or the many steps NYU has been taking to fight antisemitism and keep the campus safe,” spokesperson John Beckman said in an emailed statement. 

The explosion of antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses has led to renewed interest in whether students can use Title VI to force universities to do more to protect them. President Joe Biden’s administration has vowed to use the law in the face of campus threats and violence. 

The students sued amid searing criticism of college administrators at multiple East Coast schools. Last week, Columbia temporarily suspended two student groups supporting the Palestinian cause, saying they repeatedly violated university policy after an unauthorised event proceeded “despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation”. On 31 October, a junior engineering student at Cornell was charged with making death threats online to Jewish students. 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology stopped short of suspending students because of potential visa issues, but barred them from non-campus activities while the school investigates a protest conducted in defiance of school rules. 

Threaten with ‘impunity’

In their lawsuit, juniors Bella Ingber, Sabrina Maslavi and Saul Tawil claimed NYU students and faculty members are permitted to “repeatedly abuse, malign, and threaten Jewish students with impunity”. 

NYU’s Beckman said: “Antisemitism violates our rules; we take the issues of antisemitism and any other forms of hate extremely seriously, and we are committed to safeguarding our community and providing an environment in which all students can live and learn in peace.”

The attacks on Jewish students have escalated since Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the US and the European Union, attacked Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages. In response, Israel has attacked the Gaza Strip, claiming more than 11,000 Palestinian lives, according to the Hamas-run media office. 

Since then, many students and faculty have “openly and enthusiastically” endorsed Hamas, the complaint says. 

The lawsuit demands that NYU implement measures to prevent antisemitism, terminate administrators and faculty members responsible for the abuse, and suspend students engaging in the conduct. 

The lawsuit was filed on the same day that thousands of people gathered on Washington’s National Mall to express support for Israel in one of the largest such demonstrations since the war began. Organisers said the event drew more than 200,000 people, but there was no official confirmation of that estimate.

The Education Department announced resources aimed at ensuring schools and college campuses have the tools they need to protect students from discrimination and harassment because of their race, color, or national origin, including students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Arab, or Palestinian.

“Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of hate are antithetical to who we are as Americans,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “All students have the right to learn in safe and inclusive educational environments.”


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