Department of Education Dismisses 3 Year Old Complaint Targeting Palestine Advocacy at Rutgers
Again, Department of Education Dismisses Baseless Title VI Charges, Reaffirming Criticism of Israel is Protected Speech. In an affirmation of free speech principles, the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has dismissed a complaint brought by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in 2011 alleging that Rutgers University tolerated a hostile climate for Jewish students. The ZOA argued that Rutgers failed to protect Jewish students from exposure to advocacy for Palestinian rights, thus violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The case has been under investigation by the DOE for over three years. Today, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that DOE found no violations of federal antidiscrimination laws, and that the investigations did not find evidence to support the allegations made in the complaint. The decision to dismiss the ZOA’s charges, yet again, reaffirms the principle that criticism of Israel is not Anti-Semitic harassment. The OCR’s letter in response to the ZOA stated,
exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience.
Last year, the OCR dismissed similar anti-Semitism complaints against three University of California schools, at Berkley, Santa Cruz, and Irvine, which falsely alleged that Palestinian rights activism created an anti-Semitic climate. The rulings on all four complaints confirms the obvious – that political activity advocating for Palestinian human rights does not violate the civil rights of Jewish students who find such criticism offensive, and that, to the contrary, colleges and universities have an obligation to create an environment that supports freedom of expression.
PSLS and its partners advocate against the misuse of civil rights laws to address political speech on campuses. We have communicated to the DOE that these complaints are politically motivated, intending to silence speech activities advocating for Palestinian rights, and that the lengthy investigations that accompany them have a severe chilling effect on student speech.