The U.S. Department of Education dismissed a complaint against the University of California Berkeley that claimed anti-Israel protests on campus created a hostile environment for Jewish students, and that the university was legally obligated to curb them.
The 2012 complaint, filed with the education department’s Office of Civil Rights by two recent graduates, alleged that campus officials allowed a hostile campus environment for Jewish students to continue unabated by not stopping campus protests critical of Israeli policies, referring specifically to the annual February “Apartheid Week” demonstration.
The complaint charged that the demonstration violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says that recipients of federal funds are barred from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education extended Title VI to include the protection of Jewish students from anti-Semitism on campuses.
An investigation by the Office of Civil Rights, which included interviews with students and observations of the demonstrations, concluded that events described in the complaint do not constitute harassment, but rather they “constituted expression on matters of public concern directed to the university community. In the university environment, 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.”
“We are pleased with the successful outcome of this investigation,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “The claim that there is a hostile environment for Jewish students at Berkeley is, on its face, entirely unfounded. The campus takes great pride in its vibrant Jewish community and in the many academic and cultural opportunities available to members of that community and others interested in its history and culture. We will continue our ongoing efforts to protect free speech rights while promoting respectful dialogue and maintaining a campus environment that is safe for all our students.”