The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights informed the Zionist Organization of America this month that the University of North Carolina expressed a willingness to resolve the ZOA’s allegations through a resolution agreement.
The Oct. 14 agreement required the university to take reasonable steps to enable students not to face a hostile environment, including appropriately responding to anti-Semitic acts.
UNC interim chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz must issue a statement to students, faculty and staff that UNC does not tolerate anti-Semitism, and that students are encouraged to report such incidents.
Additionally, UNC must revise its written harassment and discrimination policy to (a) reiterate its commitment to an environment free from prohibited harassment, including anti-Semitic harassment; and (b) include a statement that the harassment of students based on their actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitic harassment, may constitute national origin discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The revised policy may provide a clear definition of anti-Semitism and must provide a description of the forms of anti-Semitism that can manifest in the UNC environment.
Moreover, for each of the next two academic years, UNC must host at least one meeting to provide students, faculty and staff with the opportunity to discuss with UNC administrators concerns they have about incidents of anti-Semitic and other forms of harassment. The university must also take appropriate steps to address any complaints about specific harassment incidents identified during the meetings.
Finally, for the next three academic years, it must include in each training/orientation offered to the academic community a component on anti-Semitic and other forms of harassment. By June 1, 2020, UNC must provide the modified training module to OCR for review and approval. It must also provide a statement to OCR confirming that the training module contains a segment on anti-Semitic harassment.
The resolution agreement came in the aftermath of an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel conference in March hosted by the Duke-University of North Carolina Consortium for Middle East Studies that reportedly used $5,000 of taxpayer funds from the U.S. Education Department, which said the event had “little or no relevance to Title VI” under the Higher Education Act of 1965 that deals with higher education.
“The ZOA is proud to have triggered OCR’s Resolution Agreement with UNC, which we believe will secure Jewish students’ legal rights under Title VI to a campus environment that is both physically and psychologically safe,” said ZOA national president Mort Klein and Susan Tuchman, the director of the organization’s Center for Law and Justice, in a statement.
“This is the right and just result. We at the ZOA are grateful to OCR for its prompt and effective response to ZOA’s legal complaint,” they added. “OCR has continued to show its commitment to vigorously enforcing our civil-rights laws so that Jewish and non-Jewish students who face racial and ethnic harassment and discrimination are provided with the safe and welcoming learning environment that every student deserves.”