Some say discrimination widely felt at UIC, now under federal investigation by Education Department

Jasmine Minor Image
Wednesday, December 20, 2023
Some say discrimination widely felt at UIC, now under investigation
The University of Illinois - Chicago is now under federal investigation for alleged discrimination, along with over a dozen other schools.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The U.S. Department of Education is now investigating the University of Illinois - Chicago for alleged discrimination.

The DOE is looking at more than a dozen schools as a part of the Biden Administration's efforts to take action against a rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab incidents on college campuses nationwide.

The UIC investigation stems from a 2022 complaint by Palestine Legal, which says it represents the interests of Palestinian people, but all types of students on campus say they have felt discriminated against.

"What you're seeing is an entire climate, of isolation of alienation for Jewish students," said Charles Cohen, executive director of Metro Chicago Hillel, a department of the Jewish United Fund.

Cohen said his organization supports students across Chicago's universities, including UIC.

"You have students who are being excluded from student groups from group chats for their majors. You have professors providing calls to action against Israel, in their campus in their classrooms," he said.

Cohen said there's been a drastic rise in students being discriminated against since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

"While there hasn't been a claim filed against UIC, you know, an antisemitic standpoint, that could change any day," he said.

The Department of Education would not comment on the investigation, but said in a statement the released list of schools being investigated is "part of the Biden administration's efforts to take action amid the "alarming nationwide rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and other forms of discrimination on both college and K-12 school campuses."

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was added to the list of schools a few weeks ago. Other newly added schools include Springfield, IL Public Schools District 186, MNIT, UC Davis and Drexel University.

UIC also said they could not comment directly on the ongoing investigation, but released a statement saying: "The university strives to be a place where everyone feels welcome and where all people - no matter what color, race, ancestry, age, sex, interests, sexual orientation including gender identity, religion, disability, national origin, or marital status - can share perspectives and viewpoints to learn from one another. We care deeply about all members of our community, and we are committed to maintaining a campus climate that respects and advances tolerance, inclusion and diversity. To maintain a fair and impartial process, the university refrains from commenting on matters related to ongoing investigations, including those initiated by the OCR. We take all allegations of civil rights violations seriously and will fully cooperate with any inquiries that may arise from a complaint."

Cohen said he's hopeful the investigation can lead to change for all students.

"It's about making sure that the campus community is safe and vibrant and available and accessible to all students," he said.