Thursday, Apr 18, 2024

Two More Ivy Leagues Face Legal Action Over Rampant Anti-Semitism

 

Columbia, Barnard Exposed as ‘Cesspools’ of Bigotry

 

 

Columbia and Barnard universities have joined an ignominious list of elite Ivy League schools facing lawsuits for enabling anti-Semitic discrimination to flourish, and for fostering a climate of explosive hostility against Jewish students after the Oct. 7 Hamas slaughter fest.

One shouldn’t be shocked at this point in time, but reading through the court documents, it’s hard not to react to the vast reach of virulent anti-Semitism infecting academia.

In court documents, Jewish students in these scandal-ridden institutions describe their campus environments in startlingly similar terms; as having deteriorated into “cesspools of anti-Semitic bigotry,” in the words of one lawsuit, marked by brazen hate speech and “intolerable” bullying and abuse of Jewish students.

Columbia University was hit last week with a one-two punch—two separate lawsuits representing different Jewish students brought by influential Manhattan firms.

A 114-page lawsuit by the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres alleged that Columbia, “one of the worst centers of anti-Semitism in the United States,” has continuously trampled the civil rights of Jewish students, and that a sizable group of faculty members openly justify heinous crimes against Jews.

“Since October 7, 2023, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and slaughtered, tortured, burned, and mutilated 1,200 people — including infants, children, and the elderly — antisemitism at Columbia has been particularly severe and pervasive,” the lawsuit attests.

Columbia faculty members and students routinely extol Hamas’s October 7 atrocities as “awesome” and a “great feat,” the brief goes on to allege. “More than 100 faculty members signed a letter to this effect, defending Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre as a “military action” (as opposed to depraved terrorism.)

 

Fourth In a String of Lawsuits Citing Title VI

The Kasowitz action against Columbia is the fourth in a string of lawsuits the firm has brought against campus anti-Semitism since the Oct. 7 barbaric massacres in Israel.

The firm represented Jewish students in a lawsuit against NYU in December over rampant civil rights violations. It also targeted UPenn and Harvard on behalf of Jewish students, alleging the schools are hotbeds of anti-Jewish hatred and harassment and shamelessly discriminate against their Jewish students. [See Sidebar]

According to attorney Marc Kasowitz, the skyrocketing anti-Semitic discrimination confronting Jewish students at Harvard is playing out in a range of equally deplorable scenarios at MIT, Stanford and Yale. The Kasowitz Benson Torres team will be representing Jewish students in lawsuits brought against these schools as well, the firm has announced.

These institutions, for decades “have permitted acts of anti-Semitic hatred and discrimination to fester on their campuses, constituting egregious civil rights violations,” commented Kasowitz. “They are acutely aware of this but adopt a policy of indifference, belittling or dismissing the complaints of Jewish students which emboldens the perpetrators.”

With regard to the lawsuit against Columbia and Barnard, the attorney noted that “Columbia continues to capitulate to pro-Hamas students and faculty, placing Columbia’s Jewish and Israeli community at risk.” He described Columbia University as a school “where hate and the promotion of violence is not just allowed but taught.”

“Our lawsuit seeks to protect Jewish students by exposing and expunging the anti-Semitic virus that permeates Columbia’s campus and classrooms,” he said.

As the war has continued in the Middle East, pro-Arab Columbia and Barnard students have exploited the opportunity to escalate protests and demonstrations. During the protests, the lawsuit alleges, Jewish students have been subjected to Jew-baiting and anti-Semitic abuse including obscene epithets, calls for Jews to be destroyed, and chants of “Jews will not defeat us.”

School administrators’ silence on the rampant hate has created a vacuum that has been filled with anti-Semitism, the lawsuit says.

“What is most striking about all of this is Columbia’s abject failure and deliberate refusal to lift a finger to stop and deter this outrageous anti-Semitic conduct and discipline the students and faculty who perpetrate it,” the brief notes.

 

Students Traumatized

It documents one example after another of blatantly anti-Semitic hate speech and other vile anti-Semitic behavior that is allowed to dominate Columbia’s campus without consequences.

One example included in the 114-page lawsuit detailed a November rally in which pro-Palestinian marchers shouted “death to Jews” during the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 Nazi pogrom that murdered over a hundred Jews, burned thousands of shuls across Germany and Austria, and marked a terrifying escalation in Hitler’s war against the Jews.

“Columbia refuses to act to protect its Jewish students, who are routinely tormented with repulsive epithets, intimidation and discrimination by other students and faculty,” Kasowitz partner Mark Ressler said. “We have spoken to dozens of students who are traumatized,” the attorney said. “They are suffering enormous emotional distress.”

“Some of them have seen their grades plummet. Some of them cower in their dormitory or apartment or have hunkered down at home with their parents,” he said.

“Judicial intervention is required to force Columbia to comply with Title VI, enforce its conduct codes in a neutral manner and protect Jewish students from outrageous abuse,” Ressler said. “It’s an intolerable situation. And it’s a situation that can be remedied.”

 

Booted For Being an Observant Jew

In a separate lawsuit, religious Jewish student Macky Forrest is suing Columbia University for allegedly forcing her out of an elite program at the School of Social Work after she requested a schedule accommodation due to Shabbos observance.

In the wake of soaring anti-Semitism on Columbia’s campus, Forrest, a student with a stellar academic record, also requested permission to attend some classes over Zoom.

The Ivy League university dismissed her concerns and “unleashed a retaliatory campaign” against her, Forrest contends in the lawsuit. She is represented by the Lawfare Project, an organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Jewish people worldwide through legal action, and by the Manhattan firm of Eiseman Levine Lehrhaupt & Kakoyiannis.

The lawsuit described Columbia University as having “devolved into a cauldron of anti-Semitism” that forced Forrest to circumvent the campus. She persisted in seeking an alternative to crossing the Columbia campus where gangs of pro-Palestinian routinely stage walkouts, block certain buildings and harass visibly Jewish students.

At that point, the lawsuit recounts, Forrest’s program director, already hostile after an altercation over Shabbos observance, began to fabricate complaints against her. This effectively forced her out of a highly specialized Social Work program in which she had excelled, a few months prior to graduation.

In a phone interview with Yated, Lawfare director of litigation Ziporah Reich said the university “fabricated false pretexts for kicking a straight-A student out of a program out of sheer prejudice,” and denied her safety accommodations which is “indefensible.”

Reich said the right to an education where a student feels physically safe is “a fundamental non-negotiable right protected by law.” The attorney cited Title VI Civil Rights legislation that prohibits any school or organization taking federal money from discriminating against any individual on the basis of color, race or country of origin.

The university’s failure to provide Mackenzie (Macky) with a basic accommodation to ensure her safety is not only shameful, but a dereliction of the university’s moral and legal responsibilities,” noted Reich. “Such negligence demands accountability.”

 

‘Suicide Weekend?’ Not on Shabbos

 

Reich said that Forrest, who is from Florida, specifically came to Columbia in August 2022 to enroll in its unique dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) program, with the goal of earning a much sought-after degree. With her exceptional academic credentials, she was immediately accepted.

“Things began falling apart when the issue of Sabbath observance came up,” Reich told Yated.

During an initial encounter following her acceptance, Forrest told the head of the program she would need a Sabbath accommodation for its required “Suicide Weekend” devoted to dealing with suicidal patients. The program head told her that would be “problematic.”

“Schools routinely make accommodations for students’ religious observance,” Reich said in the phone interview. “It is the law, it’s not a matter of choice on the administration’s part. If an exam is scheduled on the Sabbath, federal and state law says they are required to provide a way for students to make it up.”

In Forrest’s case, she was told that “we’ll talk about it when the time comes,” so she dropped the issue and enrolled in the DBT program, meeting with patients as required and continuing to receive all As in her coursework.

However, Reich said, as the “suicide weekend” approached, Forrest again brought up the Shabbos issue. She said she came under “incredible pressure” by the university to violate Shabbos or get a rabbi to give her “an exemption.”

Officials finally relented but reportedly acted “disgruntled and angry about it,” Reich recounted.  Matters deteriorated after the October 7 massacres by Hamas, when anti-Semitic hostility on Columbia’s campus exploded.

“There were anti-Israel protests creating mob-like scenes in violation of school policy,” noted Reich. “They were blocking entrances to the library and assaulting Jewish students and calling for violence against Jewish students on campus. One student suffered a broken bone. My client became terrified of walking on that campus so she asked the administration for an accommodation to take classes by Zoom, something routinely granted to students.”

In Forrest’s case, however, the request was denied and her fears were mocked as “groundless.” Reich said that soon after, faculty members began their campaign to remove her from the DBT program. Ultimately, she was told, ‘If you continue to stay in the program you will fail.’

“The vitriolic and anti-Semitic environment at Columbia to which Jewish students like Macky have been subjected,” said Reich, “is indescribable.”

Title VI: Powerful Tool?

The multiple lawsuits against Ivy League schools filed in recent weeks by Jewish students have all cited Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law may now become the most powerful legal tool to force universities to protect their students from anti-Semitic bullying and discrimination on their campuses.

“The ultimate Title VI threat is that the university will lose federal funding,” Kenneth Marcus, the chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights. “That is very rare.” But it would be a massive blow to universities, which receive vast sums from the Education Department and other agencies, he told Bloomberg News.

Title VI bars all federally funded programs, institutions and activities from intentionally creating a discriminatory or hostile environment for any students because of their race, color or national origin. It covers public and private campuses at all educational levels.

A December 2019 executive order; a September 2023 White House statement; and Education Department letters issued in May and November 2023 all make clear that Title VI bars any and all expression and practice of anti-Semitism, according to the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of the term.

This law is now being used by Jewish students facing the worst anti-Semitism on campuses since before World War II. Their many lawsuits seeking protection from anti-Semitic discrimination and Jew-baiting on college campuses will test the government’s political will to enforce this 60 year-old Civil Rights law.

***

Columbia Gets Scathing Letter from House Committee

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has intensified its investigation of antisemitism in higher education to include Columbia and Barnard, along with Harvard, UPenn and MIT.

Committee Chair Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., sent a scathing letter to Columbia University last week, providing examples of how “an environment of pervasive anti-Semitism has been documented at Columbia for more than two decades before the October 7, 2023, terrorist attack.”

The 16-page letter was addressed to Columbia University President Minouche Shafik, Columbia Trustees David Greenwald and Claire Shipman; Barnard College President Laura Rosenbury; and Barnard Trustees Chair Cheryl Milstein.

“Columbia has consistently allowed anti-Israel groups to violate university policies and shown its commitments on antisemitism to be hollow,” Rep. Foxx wrote. She requisitioned all reports of anti-Semitic incidents and related communications made to the Columbia administration since Jan. 1, 2021.

In addition, Rep. Foxx detailed a list of 25 specific items of information Columbia officials must provide. These include communications related to funding and financial support—specifically foreign donations for the multiple pro-Palestinian student groups inciting the anti-Semitic rabble-rousing.

Rep. Foxx is also seeking documents showing the annual total amount of foreign donations to Columbia, listed by country, since Jan. 1, 2021, as well as all documents showing donations and funding specifically from oil-rich Qatar since that date.

The letter to Columbia officials zeroed in on “numerous incidents of anti-Semitic assaults, harassment, and vandalism at Columbia over the past several months,” demanding all communications concerning specific incidents of Jewish students being beaten or targeted by demonstrators.

The letter also noted how “numerous Columbia faculty have made anti-Semitic remarks and statements of support for Palestinian terrorism both prior to and after the October 7, 2023, terrorist attack.”

Some of the worst examples, the letter said, included Professor Joseph Massad penning an article after the Oct. 7 attack comparing the “Palestinian resistance” to “Europeans resisting the Nazi occupation.”

Massad also referred to Israel in his classes as “cruel bloodthirsty colonizers,” and maligned the Israeli military as “baby-killing Jewish volunteers” and “a genocidal cult.”

The letter also cited how Hamid Dabashi, Columbia’s professor of Iranian studies, had made numerous virulently anti-Semitic statements dating back years, including demonizing Israel as “a racist, apartheid state.”

Foxx’s letter sharply challenged Columbia president Shafik’s declaration that “our first priority has been to make sure everyone connected to Columbia is safe” and “we will not tolerate anti-Semitic actions and are moving forcefully against anti-Semitic threats as they are reported.”

The wealth of documented information cited in Foxx’s letter exposed Shafik’s pretentions as   ludicrous.

***

Alumni: Harvard Has ‘Despicably Failed’

Ten alumni of Harvard University joined a lawsuit alleging that the once-prestigious institution has “despicably failed” to address anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred on campus, resulting in a devaluation of their degrees, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The 21-page lawsuit, filed in a Massachusetts court last Tuesday, seeks a court order to force Harvard to “take concrete and affirmative steps to end anti-Semitism on its campus.”

Additionally, it asks the court to require that Harvard hold leaders and faculty members accountable for allowing “anti-Semitism to fester.” The plaintiffs are also seeking an unspecified amount of restitution for the perceived loss in value of their diplomas.

Their lawsuit focuses on Harvard’s handling of the eruption of anti-Semitism on its campus after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. It alleges that Harvard has allowed Jewish hatred to evolve “for years” but that events since the Oct. 7 attacks have caused a disastrous transformation of the university’s reputation.

The plaintiffs allege that recent administrations have wreaked havoc at Harvard, eroding its academic standards and propagandizing the student body with harmful ideologies. Various businesses will no longer hire Harvard graduates and large-scale donors have rescinded their support for the institution, the lawsuit says.

“Regrettably, I am suing Harvard today because the university has failed to live up to its own standard of excellence. Students and faculty demanding the destruction of Israel and the death of Jews are allowed to march on campus, threaten students, and disrupt classes on the pretense of freedom of speech,” Dr. Alan Bauer, a plaintiff, said in a statement provided by his attorneys.

“Yet, the university disinvited a distinguished speaker because of her unpopular views, cancelled the men soccer team’s season due to ‘vulgar’ comments, and rescinded the admission of ten students due to online activity that the university found offensive.

“Freedom of speech did not prevail in these instances; it is only applied when Jews are being attacked,” Bauer noted. “Harvard’s leadership has failed to adequately address the spasm of Jew-hatred on campus, and we, all Harvard alumni, are suing in order to get the university pointed back in the direction of being the leader in education and not the national disgrace it is today.”

Bauer went on to draw parallels with the Holocaust. “Before the Holocaust, antisemitism was deeply rooted in academic spheres and universities, mirroring the present-day environment,” the statement went on. “We are seeking justice for current students afraid to speak out for themselves and for those who endured silent suffering during the Holocaust. In memory of my relatives and the six million Jews who perished, we are determined not to remain silent.

This suit represents a commitment to ensuring that history never repeats itself,” said Tammie Purow, another plaintiff.

 

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