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April 21, 2024

U.S. Department of Education opens Title VI investigation into alleged anti-semitism on Hopkins campus

By CATHY WANG | February 21, 2024



The University faces a Title VI investigation over alleged mishandling of anti-semitism reports on campus. 

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) initiated an investigation into the University on Tuesday, Feb. 13 over its alleged failure to respond to campus anti-semitism, which is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Title VI prohibits discrimination based on one’s race, color or national origin, including harassment based on a person’s shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. As a higher institution receiving federal financial assistance from the Department, the University’s potential violation of Title VI is within the jurisdiction of OCR. 

In an email to The News-Letter, a University spokesperson emphasized the University’s commitment to upholding its core values through enforcing University policy and the student code of conduct.

“Johns Hopkins University abhors anti-Semitism and discrimination of any kind. We strive to foster a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment for each member of our community,” they wrote. “As an academic community, we are guided by the principles of academic freedom and the right to free expression for every member of our community, including their right to protest, demonstrate and share their views.”

The investigation adds the University to a growing list of institutions currently under Title VI shared ancestry investigations. OCR first announced the list on Nov. 16, 2023 after increasing reports of discrimination on university and K-12 campuses following the breakout of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7. The initial list included seven K-12 schools and institutions of higher education facing complaints that included both antisemitic and anti-Muslim harassment. 

Since then, OCR has added 58 additional institutions to the list, including Harvard University, Northwestern University, Yale University, Brown University, Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hopkins is part of the most recent batch of institutions added to the list, along with Jefferson Parish Schools, Pacific Lutheran University, Natick Public Schools and Chicago Public Schools.

The investigation emerged from a complaint filed by conservative newspaper Campus Reform Editor-in-Chief Zachary Marschall, who has previously filed similar complaints against a number of institutions. According to an article published in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Marschall claims that his complaints are grounded in his conversations with Jewish college students, who are too scared to file complaints themselves. An article published in Campus Reform explains the foundations of Marschall’s complaint against Hopkins in particular.

“[The] University has not done enough to respond to anti-Semitism on campus, which is leaving Jewish students feeling ‘unwelcome and unsafe,‘” the article wrote.

The article does not include details of the complaint, but it makes references to two open letters written by University faculty and Teachers and Researchers United calling for a ceasefire. The article points out that the faculty letter received praise from The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which Campus Reform claims has connections to Hamas.

According to the letter from OCR to Marschall regarding the complaint, Marschall also alleged that Hopkins failed to respond to incidents of harassment during the 202324 school year. However, the letter does not provide further information on the specifics of the incidents.

In an email to The News-Letter, senior Yael Klucznik, a member of Hopkins Hillel, emphasized that the complaint came unexpectedly for the Jewish community at Hopkins. 

“Initially, we had no idea as to how or why this complaint was filed, especially because it did not come from Hopkins students themselves,” she wrote. “Some students are upset because this investigation can sound inflammatory, and as though antisemitism on our campus is thriving. We are worried the investigation can portray Jewish student life as worse than it actually is, and drive away Jewish prospective students.”

Yet, Klucznik conveyed that she is personally grateful for the investigation to be taking place. From her perspective, although the situation at Hopkins is not as violent and prominent as other universities, the University has not properly addressed nor held affiliates responsible for antisemitic remarks.

In their email, the University spokesperson explained that while they do not have the full details of the complaint yet, they will cooperate fully with OCR to review any allegations. The spokesperson acknowledged reports of anti-semitism in the past school year and shed light on the University’s investigation process. 

“Our campuses have not been immune to the rise in religious hate that has occurred around the nation and the world in recent months,” they wrote. “We too have seen an increase in reports of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia since last October, including incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti on our campuses. We take these reports very seriously and refer them for review and investigation by our Office of Institutional Equity.”

Klucznik shared her personal experience with the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) in recent months. 

“Over the last four months I have experienced severe bullying and antisemitic tropes that were reported both to the Office of Institutional Equity and to a national recording site called OIE has stated that my incidents do not fall within their definition of harassment,” she wrote. “OIE has also failed to recognize the definition of antisemitism and has abstained from using the word in all of its reviews.”

Klucznik also found that many other Hopkins students shared her experience. 

“Many other Jewish students have faced harassment and doxxing, where through a similar experience their cases were dismissed by OIE,” she wrote. “That’s why I think this investigation will put pressure on our university to do more to protect Jewish students, and it will hopefully bring to light so many cases that were thrown under the rug.”

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