Founder of Amcha Initiative Demanding U.S. Department of Education
Reopen Title VI Complaint

Appeal Claims that the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights Unfairly Dismissed Complaints on Behalf of Jewish Students

For 45 years, the Federal Government denied to Jewish college/university students a legal protection under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that it gave to all other ethnic groups such as African-American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern students.  Only in 2010 did the Federal Government through the Department of Education nominally extend such protection to Jews.  However, this August, the Department of Education dismissed complaints about civil rights violations against Jews on three University of California campuses: Berkeley, Irvine, and Santa Cruz.

Last Thursday, University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin formally filed an appeal to the U.S. Department of Education- Office for Civil Rights (OCR), asking the department to reopen the complaint that she had filed in 2009, which was based on a long-standing and pervasive pattern of discrimination against of Jewish students at UC Santa Cruz in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Rossman-Benjamin’s original complaint charged that professors, academic departments and residential colleges at UCSC were promoting and encouraging anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior, and creating a hostile environment for Jewish students.

Rossman-Benjamin’s 41-page appeal provided substantial evidence that the Office for Civil Rights’ characterization of her complaint was false, inaccurate and misleading, and that its investigation into her complaint was deeply flawed and completely ignored her extensive documentation of a hostile environment for Jewish students at UCSC.  “The extent of the inaccurate, false and misleading information contained in the OCR’s letter dismissing my complaint was astonishing. It suggested a clear intention to dismiss my complaint without considering the true merits of my allegations, and without a fair consideration of the anti-Jewish bigotry that Jewish students may face at UCSC.”

Rossman-Benjamin’s appeal also contains several pages of evidence that over the last year, Muslim and pro-Palestinian student groups and the legal, civil rights and advocacy groups that support them have waged a massive campaign targeting the three Title VI complaints filed on behalf of Jewish students at the University of California, including Rossman-Benjamin’s, and attempting to force the OCR to dismiss them.  “These groups even went as far as petitioning the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in order to pressure the OCR to dismiss my complaint!” said Rossman-Benjamin, who feels that the OCR’s dismissal of her complaint was in part a result of these groups’ massive campaign of pressure.

In addition, the appeal contrasted the OCR’s willingness to apply title VI protections to African American students at UC San Diego after incidents of alleged racial harassment with their unwillingness to consider the longstanding, pervasive and well-documented harassment of Jewish students at UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz, and suggested that OCR was employing a discriminatory double standard that was antisemitic in effect if not in intent.

“With the OCR’s dismissal, on the exact same day, of all three Title VI complaints alleging anti-Jewish harassment on UC campuses, the Jewish community is justifiably worried that the federal government is turning its back on Jewish students and is no longer willing to protect them,” concludes Rossman-Benjamin.

To download a PDF of the Title VI appeal, click here.