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Handbook used by universities to report campus antisemitism replaced by 13-page memo

The U.S. Department of Education is rescinding a 265-page handbook colleges and universities used to report campus antisemitism and other hate crimes, replacing it with a 13-page document.

The handbook devotes almost three pages to its “basic” definition of hate crime; the new memo doesn’t explicitly define it at all, but refers the reader to the FBI handbook that is the source of the definition.

The Department of Education could not be reached immediately for comment about the change.

Even under the handbook, which took effect in 2016 and will become obsolete in 2021, antisemitic hate crime was often underreported, according to a recent Forward investigation.

Universities used the handbook to comply with a federal law, the Clery Act, which required them to annually report crimes on their campuses. They had to make the information available on their websites, as well as on one maintained by the Department of Education.

The law defined a hate crime as “a criminal offense that manifests evidence that the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim.” That definition excluded most incidents of Jew hatred on campus — swastikas and other bigoted symbols and slogans often plastered in public places. Many Jewish students experience such vandalism as an affront against all Jews, but no individuals were “intentionally selected.”

The Forward analysis surveyed news reports of campus antisemitism between 2016 and 2018 at 215 institutions featured in the 2018 Forward College Guide. It then compared the media accounts to federal filings for those years, and found that fewer than half of the incidents that could have been reported as hate crimes actually were. Out of a total of 158 incidents at 64 schools, 93 — including antisemitic vandalism at brand-name schools known for vibrant Jewish communities like Harvard, Princeton, MIT, UCLA and the University of Maryland — were left out of the federal filings.

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