The DOE has opened an investigation into the University of California-Los Angeles after a pro-Israel group said that the school fails to protect its Jewish students from discrimination.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notified non-profit education organization StandWithUs that it accepted a complaint alleging that UCLA violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pro Israel group StandWithUs's complaint, filed with student Shayna Lavi, states that the UCLA administration failed to prevent a hostile campus environment for its Jewish campus community in complete disregard of the school's Title VI responsibilities.
The inciting incident involved a guest lecture by San Francisco State University Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who gave what the organization called an "anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rant" against Israel during a May 14 "Constructing Race" class taught by UCLA professor Kyeyoung Park. According to the complaint, Abdulhadi allegedly accused Israelis of supporting ethnic cleansing and specifically categorized support for Israel as "white supremacy."
When Lavi challenged Abdulhadi during the class, Abdulhadi and later Park allegedly repeatedly harassed Lavi. Lavi then informed the school, which she says failed to provide meaningful support or response.
"Students should never be subjected to discrimination, harassment or retaliation by their professors after standing up for themselves, their identity, and their community," said StandWithUs co- founder and CEO Roz Rothstein. "For Shayna, as for many Jews, Zionism is an integral part of her Jewish identity, and university administrators should be in the business of protecting students against conduct that marginalizes and demonizes them, not giving such hate a free pass."
"Either the UCLA administration knew the topics of discussion before allowing the SFSU professor to guest lecture for a full class of UCLA students or they didn't," UCLA student Ben Plesse told Campus Reform. "If they knew, they consciously allowed someone who is strongly biased to give a lecture to a group of UCLA students who likely did not know much about the conflict in the middle east, given that it was an anthropology class. If they didn't know, it was clearly an irresponsible decision on the school's part for permitting a professor to give a lecture without knowing what they would lecture on. In both cases, the school made a condemnable decision by letting Dr. Abdulhadi give a lecture on campus."
Plesse added that while he believes the school does a decent job to protect free speech "there's a fine line between protecting free speech and protecting student safety."
"UCLA should be a platform for free thinking, though it ought to do more to balance the ideas going around. For example, it would have been much more useful for there to have been a guest lecture where opinions on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are heard," he added.
UCLA officials did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.