Human rights advocates are awaiting a response from New York University President Andrew Hamilton after writing letters urging him to take firm action regarding what the advocates regard as a discriminatory joint statement issued in April by 53 NYU campus student groups. On Monday, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), StandWithUs (SWU), and Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF) wrote a follow-up on three earlier letters sent to Hamilton by the organizations. While the letter acknowledges that the NYU administration has condemned the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (“BDS”) movement on campus, it points out that NYU has failed to "adequately condemn the discriminatory statement or address the effect that the biased rhetoric has had on NYU’s campus community."

The letter read: “Unless you condemn the statement and clarify to students that they are expected to maintain a tolerant, inclusive campus environment during the coming year, we fear that the bigoted, hateful environment initiated at NYU in 2017-2018 will continue to fester and grow, and put your university at risk of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of color, race or national origin in any program or activity that receives federal assistance. 

According to the signatories of the letter, 53 NYU student organizations declared that they will boycott pro-Israel students and refuse to engage with them unless the pro-Israel students shed a “key component of their Jewish identity.” The letter went on to say, “Demanding that a Jewish student abandon his/her support for Israel in order to be accepted as a full member of the student body is akin to demanding that a Jewish student stop maintaining a kosher diet or stop observing the Sabbath in order to gain admission to a club.”

In an interview with Spero News, Alyza Lewin of the Brandeis Center said,  “If Catholic students were told they had to disavow the Vatican before they could engage with other students, everyone would agree that it would be blatant discrimination. This isn’t any different. The NYU administration should forcefully condemn such bias and intolerance before the school year begins and ensure that pro-Israel students are not excluded, and that they feel safe on campus.”

The Brandeis Center, StandWithUs, and Alums for Campus Fairness called on NYU to take definite steps towards protecting Jewish and Israeli students on campus:

“1. Reject the discriminatory statement firmly, specifically, and unequivocally to the entire campus community by issuing a university-wide statement at the start of the school year. Declare unequivocally that conduct undertaken by student groups to boycott, marginalize, stigmatize, or otherwise harass other NYU students based on their group identities is unacceptable.”

“2. Thoroughly investigate the origin and dissemination of the joint statement and the student organizations involved. If NYU Policies are found to have been
violated, discipline the responsible student organizations as warranted, consistent with applicable constitutional protections.”

“3. Provide mandatory training and education, on an annual basis and beginning this Fall, to all student organizations, as well as to all students, faculty, and
administrators, on bias and intolerance, including how anti-Semitism is often manifested as anti-Zionism.”

Other campuses, such as University of California-Los Angeles, have been dealing with leftist and pro-Palestine groups that have menaced and attempted to silence debate over controversial issues. 
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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