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White House Picks Former Bush Official for OCR

October 27, 2017
 
 

The White House announced Thursday that President Trump would nominate Kenneth L. Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, as the next head of civil rights at the Department of Education.

Marcus, should he be confirmed, will assume the duties of Candice Jackson, who has served as acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the department since April. Marcus was previously the staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for four years during the George W. Bush administration and prior to that served as deputy assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education.

While at the Department of Education, Marcus wrote the policy used by the Office for Civil Rights to investigate allegations of anti-Semitism on campuses. And at the Brandeis Center, he's been outspoken about what he's called increasingly pervasive anti-Semitism on campuses. Marcus has accused extremist voices on the so-called alt-right as well as the far left of spreading hate.

“University administrators know they need to respond to extremist right-wing neo-Nazi propaganda,” he told Politico earlier this year. “It’s harder to deal with anti-Semitism that disguises itself as anti-Israel in some respect.”

Marcus has argued that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement -- a nonviolent boycott movement that aims to pressure Israel to end occupation of Palestinian lands and grant full rights to Palestinian citizens -- is anti-Semitic. In 2016, the Brandeis Center filed a lawsuit against the American Studies Association, arguing its support for the academic boycott of Israel fell outside the scope of the group's mission.

Jackson was a controversial figure from the very beginning of her tenure at OCR thanks to comments she made during the 2016 presidential campaign denigrating women who had accused Trump of sexual assault. Later comments about campus sexual assault drew criticism from survivors' advocates, women's groups, and Democratic lawmakers.

Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee, repeatedly called for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to remove Jackson. In a statement Thursday, Murray indicated she was glad to see the department move on from Jackson but stopped short of endorsing Marcus.

“I am very glad that Secretary DeVos listened to the parents and students across the country who rejected Candice Jackson’s callousness toward survivors of sexual assault and deeply misguided approach to protecting the civil rights and safety of students in our nation’s schools,” Murray said. “I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Marcus and determining whether he will commit to protecting the civil rights and safety of all students and maintaining the mission of the Office for Civil Rights to ‘ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.’”

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