NEW YORK – Harvard University has been sued by Jewish students who accused it of allowing its campus to become a bastion of rampant anti-Semitism.
In a complaint filed on the night of Dec 10, six students accused Harvard of selectively enforcing its anti-discrimination policies to avoid protecting Jewish students from harassment, ignoring their pleas for protection, and hiring professors who support anti-Jewish violence and spread anti-Semitic propaganda.
“Based on its track record, it is inconceivable that Harvard would allow any group other than Jews to be targeted for similar abuse or that it would permit, without response, students and professors to call for the annihilation of any country other than Israel,” the complaint said.
The students are seeking an injunction to stop Harvard’s alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars federal funds recipients from allowing discrimination based on race, religion and national origin.
They sued eight days after Harvard president Claudine Gay resigned, under fire for her handling of anti-Semitism in the wake of Hamas’ Oct 7, 2023, attack on Israel. She also faced plagiarism allegations.
Harvard did not immediately respond on Dec 11 to requests for comment on the complaint, which was filed in Boston federal court.
The plaintiffs include Alexander Kestenbaum, who is a student at Harvard Divinity School; five unnamed students at Harvard’s law and public health schools, and the nonprofit Students Against Anti-Semitism.
Other schools including New York University (NYU), the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) face similar lawsuits.
Academic institutions around the world have been rocked by disputes over free speech and the right to protest since the Israel-Hamas war broke out in Gaza.
In November, the US Department of Education opened a probe into Harvard’s handling of anti-Semitism on campus, after starting probes at several other schools.
A House of Representatives panel is also examining Harvard’s handling of anti-Semitism, demanding a slew of materials from interim president Alan Garber and Harvard Corp senior fellow Penny Pritzker.
According to the complaint, anti-Semitism is not new at Harvard, which was founded in 1636 and is among the world’s most prestigious universities, but has swelled since Hamas’ attack.
More than 30 student groups at the school signed a petition the day after the attack, blaming Israel.
The plaintiffs said Harvard took a day to respond, offering “platitudes” but neither condemnation of the petition or Hamas, nor support for Jewish students.
But after a billboard truck drove around campus and identified members of groups backing the petition, Harvard responded forcefully, offering to protect those students from the “repugnant assault on our community,” the complaint said.
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