Department of Education dismisses complaint alleging campus anti-Semitism

Tony Zhou/Staff
As part of Israeli Apartheid Week, Students for Justice in Palestine stage a mock checkpoint on Sproul Plaza.

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The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed a complaint against UC Berkeley that alleged that the campus did not do enough to curb a hostile campus climate created by student protests against Israel’s policies.

The complaint was filed in July 2012 by two attorneys who previously represented two Jewish students in a similar lawsuit against UC Berkeley in 2011. In that lawsuit, the judge ruled that the demonstrations were protected speech and that campus administrators had acted appropriately. Although the two students agreed to drop their suit in July 2012, their attorneys immediately filed a complaint with education department’s Office for Civil Rights asserting the same claim.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which investigated the complaint, reached the same conclusions as the judge in the previous lawsuit. The department said that the protests were “expression on matters of public concern” and that “exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience.”

The office concluded that the events described by the complainants do not constitute harassment. The petitioners argued that the protests, which included mock military checkpoints and the defacement of a sign belonging to a Jewish student group, created a hostile campus climate and that the campus should have taken greater action to stop them.

In a statement Tuesday, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said the claim that there is a hostile environment for Jewish students at UC Berkeley is “entirely unfounded.”

“The campus takes great pride in its vibrant Jewish community and in the many academic and cultural opportunities available to members of that community and others interested in its history and culture,” he said in the statement. “We will continue our ongoing efforts to protect free speech rights while promoting respectful dialogue and maintaining a campus environment that is safe for all our students.”

Sara Grossman is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @saragrossman.