University of Michigan, CUNY failed to respond to hostile incident complaints in October 7 aftermath, federal report finds

The University of Michigan failed to properly investigate dozens of incidents of alleged antisemitic behavior on campus over the past four years, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education.

The agency also expressed concern about lax response by the City University of New York to at least three allegations of harassment “based on national origin” since the Israel-Hamas war began last year.

In its report on the University of Michigan, the agency’s Office of Civil Rights said, “the University appears not to have taken steps to assess whether incidents about which it had notice individually or cumulatively created a hostile environment for students, faculty, or staff, and, if so, to take steps reasonably calculated to end the hostile environment, remedy its effects, and prevent its recurrence.”

The federal agency reviewed 67 complaints – many of which predated the Israel-Hamas conflict – and found “the University only investigated and made findings in a single complaint.”

One complaint involved a protest on campus in October 2023 where people were chanting “Nazi liberation.” The federal report says the university’s civil rights office simply “forwarded the reports to public affairs for response.”

A complaint from January 2023 described “people participating in a parade on campus while allegedly chanting for the removal and death of the Jewish people and the state of Israel.” The Department of Education report found no evidence the university had taken any action. Instead, it said “the matter, as reported, appears to be outside the scope of ECRT,” the university’s office which handles civil rights complaints regarding faculty and staff. The office called the chanting “protected activity.”

One student who participated in a pro-Palestinian protest last year reported a person “yelled at the student that she was supporting rape and murder, and that she has terrorist friends.” The case was closed after the school “held restorative circles for staff, faculty, and students.”

A 2016 diversity study by the University of Michigan found 8% of students and 10% of faculty were Jewish. Less than 3% of faculty and students identified as Muslim.

In a voluntary agreement, the University of Michigan committed to investigating complaints more thoroughly, acknowledging it “must assess whether each reported incident has created a hostile environment.” It will also “develop a comprehensive annual training program on discrimination and harassment.”

In a statement Monday, the University of Michigan said, “This agreement reflects the university’s commitment to ensuring it has the tools needed to determine whether an individual’s acts or speech creates a hostile environment, and taking the affirmative measures necessary to provide a safe and supportive educational environment for all.”

In a second resolution announced Monday, the Department of Education announced a similar agreement was reached with the City University of New York in response to multiple complaints of discrimination against both Jewish and Palestinian students “on the basis of their actual or perceived national origin/shared ancestry,” with some pre-dating October 2023.

The report specifically notes three cases of harassment relating to “shared Palestinian, Arab, and/or Muslim ancestry and association with these national origins/shared ancestries,” since October 2023.

The university agreed to provide “a refresher for Office of Diversity and Compliance employees” along with additional training for campus officers.

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