UIUC Jewish students file complaint alleging university allows for anti-Semitic hostile environment

"Being a Jew at UIUC comes with immense hate and hostility," one student said.

ByABC 7 Chicago Digital Team via WLS logo
Sunday, October 25, 2020
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Jewish students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign filed a complaint on Friday alleging the school has allowed for a hostile environment to proliferate on its campus.

Jewish students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who say they've faced anti-Semitic harassment filed a complaint on Friday with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

According to a release from the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, the University has allowed a hostile environment to proliferate on its campus in violation of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The center helped prepare the complaint along with Arnold & Porter Kay Scholer LLP and in consultation with the Jewish United Fund, and Hillel International.

It claims Jewish and pro-Israel students have been subjected to an increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism over the past five years.

"Being a Jew at UIUC comes with immense hate and hostility" said Ian Katsnelson, a third-year student. "I've been called a genocide supporter, a white supremacist, and harassed; all for being publicly Jewish. And all of this in front of the administration-who did nothing."

Students say swastikas have been found on campus, items such as menorahs have been vandalized and Jewish fraternity houses damaged.

"We gave UIUC seven months since the complaint was filed to address the ongoing harassment," said Alyza D. Lewin, President of the Brandeis Center. "We hope public awareness of this dire situation will prompt the university to finally acknowledge and address the egregious anti-Semitic harassment it has swept under the rug for far too long."

A university spokeswoman said in a statement, "We have not been contacted by the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regarding any official complaint against the university, but the lawyers who submitted it to OCR in March also submitted it later to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the body that accredits the university. We were asked this summer to respond to the complaint. After receiving our response, the HLC determined that the allegations raised in the complaint do not indicate substantive noncompliance with the requirements at issue and that no further review would be conducted.

"Throughout this time, the university has been engaged in a long, meaningful and what we believed was a collaborative discussion about the concerns raised by the involved parties, so it is very disheartening that they chose to stop engaging with us. We are disappointed with the approach this group has taken to move our conversation to the media, but we are absolutely committed to an inclusive university community where everyone feels welcome.

"One of our core institutional values is ensuring that people of all faiths, ethnicities, national origins and viewpoints can live, learn and thrive. We will never tolerate bigotry, racism or hate, and we condemn acts and expressions of anti-Semitism."