A Fine Line on Title VI

Editorial

Guarded: Students at the University of California, Berkeley stage a mock Israeli checkpoint in protest of Israeli policies.
Joel Siegal
Guarded: Students at the University of California, Berkeley stage a mock Israeli checkpoint in protest of Israeli policies.

Published March 16, 2012, issue of March 23, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Some of the cases filed and rejected were, to put it generously, a reach. A daughter ejected from a basketball team because she’s Jewish? A child teased in elementary school? This is a federal offense? Even Kenneth L. Marcus, who as president and general counsel of The Louis D. Brandeis Center, has a laser focus on civil rights and Jewish students, reiterated in an interview that the community “should not bring suits that are ill-founded or frivolous.”

The weightier challenge is to find the appropriate balance between protecting individuals and ensuring free speech, especially since there already is a tendency among some Jews to view Title VI as a legal weapon in their fight against anti-Israel sentiment.

A draft resolution coming before a May plenary session of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs says it well: “It is not in the Jewish community’s best interest to invoke Title VI to promote a ‘politically correct’ environment in which legitimate debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is squelched and academic freedom is undermined, because use of the remedy in such circumstances could undermine its long-term effectiveness. It may also be in conflict with basic values of tolerance…”

And it may also not be good for the Jews.

Jewish students, that is.

Before embracing a law created to address centuries of horrific racial discrimination, we would do well to examine the message that sends to Jewish students, the vast majority of whom enjoy economic, social and educational privilege in our society. Shouldn’t they be strong enough to counter speech with more speech? Destructive ideas with constructive ones? And if not, isn’t it our job as parents, educators and communal leaders to instill knowledge and confidence in our children? There is a certain irony here, to see otherwise politically conservative leaders looking to the federal government for help.

Marcus argues that even the potential threat of a Title VI complaint can awaken an otherwise uncaring school administration to action. “The point is not to win individual cases. The point is to change the culture on campus,” he said, and arguably that is happening already. The vandalism at U.C. Riverside prompted a quick, definitive rebuke from President Yudof, whose predecessors may not have been so forthcoming.

Sadly, there will be extreme incidents where a Title VI remedy is a legitimate recourse; we should be grateful it exists. Still, it should be used sparingly and with respect for individuals and for history. Even the David Project, which has dialed back its once aggressive pro-Israel advocacy on campus, says in its latest report:

“There is widespread consensus that civil rights enforcement, including efforts to protect the rights of Jewish students, must respect freedom of speech and the doctrine of academic freedom. Contrary efforts could create a campus backlash against Israel supporters that erodes, rather than enhances, Israel’s standing.”

And, we might add, sends the wrong message to Jewish students and the community we hope they will lead someday.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.