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ADL gives Harvard and a dozen other universities failing grades on campus antisemitism

Faith Ninivaggi/Reuters

The Anti-Defamation League has graded 85 American universities for their policies to protect Jewish students from antisemitism on campus. It gave Harvard and 12 other schools an “F.” Just two schools got an “A.”

Reports of antisemitism on college campuses across the United States have surged after Hamas’ October 7, 2023, terror attack on Israel and the country’s devastating response. The ADL said antisemitic incidents on campus have reached historic levels, leaving Jewish students feeling unsafe.

“As I travel the country, I’m constantly hearing from Jewish families agonizing over where they will send their kids to college,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, in a statement. “School leadership must make serious changes to support Jewish communities on their campus; we expect nothing less.”

The ADL reviewed dozens of America’s top liberal arts colleges and those with the highest proportion of Jewish students. The organization provided each school with a questionnaire, and it received responses from 84% of the campuses it assessed. The ADL also considered other public information, including pending federal investigations related to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination based on religion, race and sex.

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Since October 7, the Education Department has launched an unprecedented number of Title VI investigations into colleges, including Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University and Stanford, among others.

The dozen schools that received failing grades from the ADL include Harvard, MIT, Stanford, University of Chicago, Princeton, University of Virginia, Tufts, Michigan State University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, SUNY Purchase, SUNY Rockland, and Swarthmore.

Harvard gets an ‘F’

Harvard in particular has become the focus of national attention for incidents of antisemitism.

In the days following the Hamas attack, a coalition of Harvard student groups released a joint statement holding Israel responsible for the attack – a statement that some of the groups’ members later disavowed. The statement drew widespread outrage and led a number of prominent donors to pull their funds or lambast the university’s administration.

Since then, a slew of incidents have taken place on campus, including vandalized Israeli hostage posters and an antisemitic cartoon shared on Instagram accounts belonging to the Harvard Faculty & Staff for Justice in Palestine group, the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and the African American Resistance Organization (the groups later apologized).

In December, former President Claudine Gay, along with two other university presidents, testified before the House Education Committee and struggled to say whether calls for Jewish genocide on campus would break the school’s rules. Gay later apologized and clarified that advocating for genocide of Jews would violate Harvard’s rules.

But the fallout was swift and severe, sending Harvard’s administration – and its efforts to combat antisemitism – into turmoil. Rabbi David Wolpe, a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Divinity School, announced his resignation from his role on Harvard’s Antisemitism Advisory Group shortly after her testimony, and Gay resigned in January.

When Interim President Alan Garber announced a presidential task force on antisemitism, he tapped Harvard Business School professor Raffaella Sadun and Harvard professor Derek Penslar to co-chair it. Within days, Penslar’s selection sparked a backlash, with some critics including famed economist and former university president Larry Summers raising concerns about his background and previous positions. Sadun stepped down after a month at the helm.

Harvard remains under federal investigation for potential Title VI violations, and several Jewish students have sued Harvard for failing to protect them from antisemitism. Jews make up 10% of the undergraduate student population and 53% of Harvard’s graduate student body.

In response, Harvard referred CNN to its response to a congressional investigation submitted a month ago. The university said it has taken action to combat antisemitism by supporting students’ safety and promoting civil discourse, updating its policies and reporting procedures and reaching out to the Jewish community.

Other colleges struggle

MIT and Stanford, which also received “F” grades, similarly have been the subject of national scrutiny for repeated incidents of antisemitism and administrators’ lack of ability to control them. Three other schools that have also gained national attention for antisemitic acts on campus – Columbia, Rutgers and the University of Pennsylvania – received “D” grades.

Only two universities received “A” grades: Brandeis and Elon.

The ADL noted that Brandeis was the first private university to revoke its recognition of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, and the student union issued a statement condemning Hamas. Brandeis partnered with the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism and classified the phrase “From the river to the sea” as hate speech. Critics of the phrase say the rallying cry advocates for the genocide of Jews.

Jews make up 35% of Brandeis’ student body, one of the nation’s largest Jewish populations on campus. Brandeis was established as a nonsectarian school but it was founded with support from the Jewish community, and it was named after former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, the highest court’s first Jewish member.

The ADL also praised Elon University for providing opportunities for the student body and faculty to learn about Hamas’ attack and encouraged dialogue.

In addition to the two “A” grades and 13 “F’s,” the ADL said 17 schools got a “B,” 29 received a “C,” and it handed out 24 “D” grades.

“Every campus should get an A – that’s not grade inflation, that’s the minimum that every group on every campus expects,” said Greenblatt in a statement. “Like all students, Jewish students deserve to feel safe and supported on campus.”

Hamas’ October 7, 2023, attack on Israel left 1,200 dead, and hundreds of Israelis were taken hostage. Israel’s devastating response to the attack has left more than 30,000 dead in Gaza.

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