Thanks to a Trump-era executive order, Oberlin could lose millions of dollars in federal funding.
After years of fighting antisemitism at her alma mater, Oberlin College graduate Melissa Landa has finally had a breakthrough. In September, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced it is investigating the charges she filed against the school back in 2019.
Thanks to a Trump-era executive order, the OCR probe could cost the school millions of dollars in federal funding.
Legal Insurrection readers have had a break from nonstop news about Oberlin, whose six-year court case with Gibson’s Bakery was doggedly covered here until it ended last December. But this high-stakes legal battle puts the school back in the spotlight.
And it comes amid a nationwide surge in campus antisemitism emboldened by the October 7 Hamas massacre: From thousands of miles away, the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust unleashed the worst outbreak of antisemitic attacks on college campuses that anyone can remember.
Most of the the campus “pro-Palestine” rallies hold themselves out as political protests against Israel. But they inevitably show their true colors—they’re really attacks on Jews:
And like Hamas’s attacks on Israelis, the attacks on American Jewish students didn’t come out of nowhere.
DEI Killed the Meritocracy That Facilitated Jewish Success
They came out of the “moral and intellectual rot” wrought by DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) in higher education as Victor Davis Hanson points out here:
DEI is the lifeblood of woke campus ideology. Its purpose is to make everyone feel good about themselves—and exactly equal—at all times. So it can’t co-exist with a system that recognizes success on the merits, because students who fall short—especially if they’re academically mismatched DEI admittees—will feel “oppressed” by that system.
To protect the “oppressed,” DEI requires that you “dismantle” the systemically racist meritocracy built by the white “oppressor.” For years, schools have whittled away longstanding objective criteria for admitting students. When the end of affirmative action loomed this past year, many universities had already undermined merits-based admissions by eliminating mandatory SAT testing. Professional schools, we wrote here, were toying with eliminating the LSATs and the MCATs. That makes the schools more “inclusive.”
Except for Jews. Meritocracy’s basic principles of fundamental fairness enabled them to succeed even when all the cards were stacked against them. And now it’s dead.
DEI is simply reaching its logical conclusion. The same way it legitimized hating the white “oppressor” for succeeding on the merits, it legitimizes this insane hatred of the Jews who, against all odds and after all this time, keep succeeding.
Landa Exposes Years of Antisemitism at Oberlin
And it comes as no surprise that a left-leaning woke liberal arts school like Oberlin is an antisemitic hotbed. Landa has been documenting Jew-hatred there since 2014:
Her OCR complaint covers years of antisemitism since then at Oberlin, including when
● A Hillel meeting was overtaken by anti-Israel activists;
● A huge display accusing Israel of “murdering” 2,133 Palestinians during Operation Protective
Edge was placed outside of Rosh HaShana services;
● A student’s dorm room in which an Israeli flag was hung was vandalized; and
● A faculty member’s home was vandalized, and left with a note saying “GAS JEWS DIE.”
Landa told Legal Insurrection that the focus of her complaint is anti-Israel activity at the school:
For many years, Jewish students at Oberlin have been targeted, ostracized, and harassed for their Zionism. They have faced hostility from student groups like Students for a Free Palestine and have heard Israel delegitimized and mischaracterized as an apartheid state by professors such as Mohammad Jafar Mahallati and the former Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo. I, along with other alumni, have expressed our concerns to President Ambar, who has dismissed us, directing us to the campus rabbis to discuss our issues. We chose to discuss them with the Office of Civil Rights instead.
But antisemitism in the guise of anti-Zionism can be hard to prove. Legitimate free speech concerns and a political divide over Israel both provide cover for it. No matter how clear it is that Jew-hatred motivates them, critics say that attacks on Israel are protected speech, and anyone who disagrees is anti-Palestinian.
Another problem is that it’s hard to show how antisemitism fits into the categories of discrimination forbidden by federal law. As we wrote here, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal funding, and is the go-to provision used to enforce anti-discrimination rules in education; but it doesn’t specifically prohibit religious discrimination.
With all this in mind, back in 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13899, entitled “Combating Anti-Semitism,” to make sure that “discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism” would be prosecuted “as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI.”
And if there’s any question whether anti-Zionism or anti-Israel activity counts as antisemitism under Title VI, the order expressly requires the OCR to consider International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition:
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
As we wrote here, the IHRA “gold standard” reflects how antisemitism has shifted its focus from Europe to the Middle East. Today it finds expression in campaigns to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel (BDS); accusations of apartheid against Israel; and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
EO 13899 explicitly tells the OCR to consider IHRA’s “‘Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism … to the extent that any examples might be useful as evidence of discriminatory intent.” These include
- “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”; or
- “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”
Biden White House officials reportedly confirmed over the summer that the EO is still in effect.
And on November 7th, the DOE re-affirmed in a press release that Title VI protection will extend to campus antisemitism in the wake of the “Israel-Hamas conflict”:
As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s continued efforts to take aggressive action to address the alarming rise in reports of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and other hate-based or bias-based incidents at schools and on college campuses since the October 7th Israel-Hamas conflict, today the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a new Dear Colleague Letter reminding schools of their legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) to provide all students, including students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian, a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.
“I think that students need to file Title VI complaints so that universities can have federal money withheld from them, and maybe that will make them act,” Landa recently told NBC news. “I hope that my Title VI complaint will serve as an example for them.”
According to the DOE this past week, it already has.DONATE
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