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U of Illinois Jewish Faculty Split on Anti-Semitism Complaint

November 6, 2020
 
 

Jewish faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and professors in the university’s Program in Jewish Culture and Society are split on whether they support a complaint of anti-Semitism filed by Jewish students with the U.S. Department of Education on Oct. 23.

Earlier this week, 64 faculty members defended Chancellor Robert Jones’s handling of incidents on campus that students said showed a pattern of anti-Semitism and said he and the university have not contributed to an environment where Jewish students feel unsafe sharing their Jewish identity. However, on Thursday, a separate group of 16 faculty members issued a dueling letter in support of the students’ complaint, which said “faculty attempts to undermine student complaints about anti-Semitism create a chilling atmosphere on campus that seeks to silence Jewish student voices.”

“We trust students to recognize their own experiences of anti-Semitism, and the systems in place to adjudicate such accusations of a hostile climate on campus,” the letter said. “Students are entitled to file grievances about their encounters and a fair legal process to consider those complaints on their merits. Thus we decry faculty attempts to undermine this process and stand with our students and their right to be heard.”

Rachel Harris, a professor in the Jewish culture and society program, said the intention of the letter is not to evaluate the substance of the anti-Semitism complaint, but to object other faculty members “litigating the complaint” before it is evaluated by the Department of Education. The department does not confirm the receipt of complaints, and according to an online database of discrimination investigations, the university is not being actively reviewed for violations under Title VI, the law that prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin at federally funded institutions.

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