Reform Universities and Make Them Safe Again

There is a widespread consensus that the answers given by the Presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT, at the recent Congressional hearing on antisemitism on campus, concerning whether calling for the ‘Genocide of the Jews’ violated their universities’ code of conduct or rules against bullying or harassment, were outrageous and wrong.

Even ChatGPT appears to have provided the correct answer, as widely noted on social media. The answer should have been simply, yes.

Instead, the Presidents resorted to muddled legal evasions focused on free speech in the abstract that also conveniently avoided the more pertinent issue of the protection of students required under Title VI and their own codes of conduct. Indeed, since President Trump’s 2019 Executive Order, any ambiguity regarding Jews being among those covered by Title VI protections was eliminated. Thus, discrimination against Jews or permitting a hostile environment where Jews are harassed is strictly prohibited.

Harassers can be students, school staff, or even someone visiting the school, such as a student or employee from another school. Racial and national origin harassment can take many forms, including slurs, taunts, stereotypes, or name-calling, as well as racially-motivated physical threats, attacks, or other hateful conduct.

The White House, Department of Education and Universities, Colleges and even Secondary Schools must take affirmative steps to remedy the seemingly endemic problem of antisemitism. This is not just a problem at the top. The lack of enforcement of existing rules only serves to exacerbate the problem. There are also reported situations where instead of punishing the predators, the victims are attacked by administrators intent on burying the problem. It’s all too reminiscent of another shameful era of victim blaming that gave rise to the ‘me too’ movement.

We cannot be silent or allow the problem to fester. Tangible actions are required immediately to prevent potential harm to students and any further disruption of educational opportunities that are effectively being denied to Jews. This would include suspending federal funding under Title VI and tax exemption, until the issues are cured. Given the prevalence of the problem, existing biases at universities and the lack of an effective response, enforcement mechanisms must also be streamlined and placed under the authority of a truly independent body charged with the function.

To facilitate dealing with this plague in our educational institutions, we must end any ambiguity about what constitutes antisemitism and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition and only that definition. The use of clever euphemisms and slogans cannot be allowed to mask what is at its root nothing more than the ancient scourge of antisemitism. It’s long past time for the Biden Administration, Congress and all schools to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by 45 countries, including the US State Department, as well as, 27 States in the US.

We must also face facts and be realistic. Combating antisemitism has nothing to do with Islamophobia. It was a fundamental mistake for the Biden Administration to include CAIR as a partner under its plan to combat antisemitism. We are glad the Administration finally recognized its error and excluded CAIR, when the head of CAIR came out in favor of the Hamas October 7 massacre. In this regard, the specter of Islamophobia cannot be allowed to deter enforcement of the law against wrongdoers.

The White House must also clean house. There is no place for antisemites on the President’s staff, nor at any of the government agencies. This includes the approximately 40 White House interns who reportedly signed an antisemitic letter falsely claiming that Israel is committing ‘genocide’ and outrageously calling Israel an ‘apartheid’ state. This display of rank incompetence, prejudice and sordid propaganda driven slurs of Israel is wholly unacceptable. After Admiral John Kirby, the White House National Security spokesman and the House of Representatives (in a bi-partisan resolution that was overwhelmingly approved) correctly declared the inapplicability of these repugnant terms to Israel, there is just no place for these kind of deviants in the US government, undermining legitimate US policy.

The fact remains Hamas to this day intentionally target civilians and has committed unspeakable atrocities that are inexcusable. That some seek to justify them speaks only to the corrosion of their moral character. IDF military doctrine only targets legitimate military targets and seeks to limit collateral damage. Accusing Israel of genocide or indiscriminate bombing of Arab residents in Gaza is an antisemitic blood libel.

Notwithstanding fighting evil Hamas, which immorally and ruthlessly uses human shields, in an urban setting, where Hamas uses civilian areas as military bases, fighting positions and strong points, Israel’s combat ratio of deaths between combatants and civilians is one of the lowest such ratios in modern war. Colonial Richard Kemp reports the UN estimates that the civilian to combatant death ratio averages 9 to 1 in conflicts since World War II. He notes that despite serious efforts taken by the US and British armies to limit civilian casualties, the ratios in Iraq were 3 to 1 and in Afghanistan were between 3 and 5 to 1. Accordingly, he said that Israel is the most moral military in the world, as that can be seen by the preciseness of their bombing even with Hamas holding hostages and hiding amongst the civilians, with an astounding less than 2-1 ratio of civilian to terrorist deaths. Holding Israel to an impossible double standard that no other country is held to in a war zone and propagating a despicable blood liable about Israel indiscriminately killing civilians is antisemitism under the IHRA definition.

As to their shrill demands for a ceasefire, it is noteworthy that there is no concomitant demand for Hamas to return all the hostages and surrender. Calling for a ceasefire absent the satisfaction of these essential conditions is not only foolhardy, it’s immoral and the Biden Administration has rejected it. The only purpose it would serve is to support evil Hamas and its truly genocidal goals. Indeed, the US also vetoed a UN Security Council resolution for similar reasons.

Universities also need to reform or eliminate their existing DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) programs. In practice they discriminate against Jews and violate Title VI. They also provide cover for staff and by extension students to discriminate against and encourage or otherwise condone harassment of Jews. The ideology underlying DEI, of separating humanity into categories of oppressed and oppressor, is antithetical to the philosophy that has enabled American exceptionalism and outsized success. The hard won success of many Jews has automatically classified them as one of the oppressors, despite the genocidal Holocaust perpetrated against them, discrimination and harassment they suffered and continue to experience and all the other travails they endured throughout history. The solution is not to categorize Jews as one of the oppressed, it is to eliminate DEI ideology all together.

Antisemitic conduct by professors and students may not be tolerated. No student clubs should be recognized if they engage in antisemitic conduct. There should be a zero tolerance policy for antisemtism, as is the case for other forms of racial bigotry. This includes taking swift disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, against professors or other staff and students engaging in antisemitic harassment, including disruptive demonstrations on College campuses that target and intimidate Jews. The absence of prompt and tangible consequences has enabled the toxic antisemitic atmosphere to become pervasive on many campuses; there is no deterrence.

We must make our universities safe again for Jews and all students.  It’s time to end the charade and vigorously enforce the law and applicable rules.

About the Author
Leonard Grunstein, a retired attorney and banker, founded and served as Chairman of Metropolitan National Bank and then Israel Discount Bank of NY. He also founded Project Ezrah and serves on the Board of Revel at Yeshiva University and the AIPAC National Council. He has published articles in the Banking Law Journal, Real Estate Finance Journal and other fine publications.
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