How one university’s remarkable turnaround has improved life for Jewish students, their allies, and friends.
Jewish life at the University of Vermont has improved remarkably since April 3, 2023 when the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights resolved the investigation into antisemitism under a Title VI complaint from Jewish on Campus and the Brandeis Center for Civil Rights. In the wake of this landmark settlement – the first of its kind – there has been a remarkable evolution in visible support for Jewish students, updated policies, and improved systems and processes for bias reporting.
Since the resolution, Jewish life at UVM has improved in many tangible ways including…
- Jewish students now report timely responses, most often within 24 hours, from the UVM Bias Response Team and the Office of Equal Opportunity.
- The Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hosted four large workshops on antisemitism since April 3rd, bringing institutional and academic insight to antisemitic hate speech and actions.
- Senior leadership from the university attended the University Presidents Summit on Campus Antisemitism to listen and learn from experts in the field and have hosted other forums and discussions with Jewish students and parents.
- The university convened scholars from across disciplines to thoughtfully articulate the historical roots of the war in Israel and Gaza with a panel that was at capacity for attendance.
- Hillel at UVM is in regular, ongoing communication with UVM Police and the Division of Safety and Compliance to ensure the safety of Jewish students.
- The President and Provost have issued statements upholding Our Common Ground values about respect, openness, and tolerance for our community, with messages specific to the Jewish community.
- Most importantly, UVM has updated its policies to prohibit bias and harassment based on shared ancestry, including antisemitism.
Even as we have seen more students feeling comfortable disclosing antisemitic bias and harassment to our staff, we feel that comfort is indicative of a culture that encourages reporting rather than one that seemed to stifle Jewish students’ voices.
Jewish students also report that they are largely able to fully express their Jewish identity without fear of repercussion or social ostracization. There remain isolated incidents of challenging conversations among friend groups related to Israel and Gaza, both in person and on social media. However, UVM students are incredibly resilient and are able to approach the issues with nuance and depth that mirrors their academic pursuits on campus.
These leadership-level changes by the university have led to an increase in Jewish clubs and organizations and higher levels of participation in Hillel programs. Prior to the OCR resolution, there was Hillel and Chabad. Now there is a Jewish Student Union recognized by the University of Vermont and 11 additional Jewish and Israel-oriented student clubs on campus. We have seen an increase in Jewish parents reaching out to Hillel during their on-campus visits, and the Burack Hillel center at 439 College Street has seen an increase of nearly 40% in daily usage from students.
In short, Jewish life at UVM is thriving. Even as we face rising levels of antisemitism around the country and flurries of activity on campus, the Title VI resolution and subsequent policy, systems, and process changes on campus have helped Jewish students feel better supported at UVM.
In the wake of October 7 and rising antisemitism around the world, Jewish students, still need your support here are five ways you can do just that including letters, baked goods, and donations. As Pirkei Avot reminds us, we are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are we free to desist from it.
For questions, email Executive Director, Matt Vogel – firstname.lastname@example.org.