Religion News Service
April 04, 2006 Tuesday
RNS Daily Digest
by Piet Levy
U.S. Commission Finds `Serious Problem' With Anti-Semitism on Campuses
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reports that many college campuses have a "serious problem" with anti-Semitism and urges universities and government agencies to take corrective steps.
The independent, bipartisan agency reached these conclusions and voted on recommendations Monday (April 3) in a teleconference meeting open to the public. The commission cited a report that came after the commission examined, at a November hearing, specific instances of alleged anti-Semitism.
The commission heard reports of derogatory comments and use of hate symbols, such as swastikas. Stereotypes are also prevalent, the report said, inspired by anti-Israel and anti-Zionist literature that paints Jews as "greedy, aggressive, overly powerful, or conspiratorial."
The commission also concluded there is substantial evidence that many university departments of Middle Eastern studies are one-sided and may repress debate that defends Israel.
The commission does not set policy or have enforcement power, but recommended that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights protect harassed students by vigorously enforcing the Civil Rights Act. The commission also urged the office to conduct a public education campaign informing students of their rights and protections under federal civil rights laws.
The commission asked Congress to direct the U.S. Department of Education to collect and report data concerning anti-Semitism and other hate crimes at colleges. The Civil Rights Act should be amended, the commission said, to clarify that discrimination against Jewish persons is prohibited.
The report suggested that university leaders ensure their students' safety, denounce anti-Semitic speech and insist that Middle Eastern studies programs respect diversity of ideas. The report issued from the teleconference did not quantify problems or cite specific examples, but an upcoming report is expected to offer more details.
The San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research praised the findings.
"It's high time U.S. college administrators, who receive billions in federal and state taxpayer dollars, defend all students against harassment and discrimination," said institute president Gary Tobin, who had testified at the November hearing. "Going to college should involve learning, not getting through being called a Nazi."