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University of Vermont President Rejects Antisemitism Charges

September 19, 2022

The president of the University of Vermont, Suresh Garimella, denied allegations of antisemitism against the university, which is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the Associated Press reported. His response has caused an uproar among some Jewish advocacy groups.

Garimella wrote in a statement to students and employees Thursday that the complaint, which alleges campus leaders failed to respond to a series of antisemitic incidents, “painted our community in a patently false light.”

“The uninformed narrative published this week has been harmful to UVM,” he said. “Equally importantly, it is harmful to our Jewish students, faculty, staff, and alumni.”

According to Garimella, the university addressed the incidents in the complaint, filed last year by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jewish on Campus, a student group focused on exposing antisemitism.

He said the university investigated after a teaching assistant posted on social media about lowering Zionist students’ grades but found no discriminatory grading had occurred. He noted that two student groups that reportedly excluded Zionist students were not recognized student organizations and were not bound by university policies. Lastly, he said police concluded that students who threw small rocks at the Hillel Center were friends trying to get the attention of someone living in the building, and no proof of antisemitic bias was found.

A joint statement signed by 20 Jewish advocacy organizations, released Friday, said they were “alarmed, disappointed and troubled” by the president’s response and chastised him for offering “inadequate excuses.”

“Simply put, President Garimella fails to condemn the existence of significant antisemitism on UVM’s campus,” the statement read. “And instead of summoning the courage that other university leaders across the country have shown in acknowledging the problem or offering support for Jewish students who are fearful about identifying publicly as Jewish, the UVM President’s statement doubles down and refuses to take responsibility.”

Matt Vogel, executive director of the University of Vermont Hillel, said in a statement that he could not comment on details of the complaint under investigation, but Hillel officials have met with campus administrators for many months “to amplify student voices and express concerns about the campus climate on behalf of the UVM Jewish community.”

“We stand unequivocally with our Jewish students, allies, friends, and family and are committed to helping them bring their voices to the table and be heard by the university,” he said.

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Sara Weissman

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