On Tuesday, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launched an investigation into instances of alleged anti-Semitism at Harvard University, due to anti-Israel demonstrations in the wake of the October 7th attacks.
According to Fox News, a letter from the OCR’s Boston office, signed by chief attorney Kristi Harris, declared that the investigation would focus on whether or not Harvard “failed to respond to alleged harassment of students based on their national origin (shared Jewish ancestry and/or Israeli) in a manner consistent with the requirements of Title VI.”
“Please note that opening the complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination on the merits of the complaint,” the letter continues. “During the investigation, OCR is a neutral factfinder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from you, the University, and other sources, as appropriate. Our goal is the prompt resolution of the complaint.”
The complaint was filed against the Ivy League university by an alumnus who has remained anonymous. The former student claims that Harvard committed discrimination against Jewish and Israel students by failing to respond to multiple instances of harassment last month.
As anti-Israel students were staging a “die-in” protest on campus in October, an Israeli first-year student at the Harvard Business School said that he was “assaulted both physically and verbally” by protesters, who repeatedly shoved him and stole his phone.
Harris also indicated in her letter that those who file a complaint may also be allowed to file private suits in federal court, based on whether or not the OCR determines that a violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act took place.
“Please be advised that the University must not harass, coerce, intimidate, discriminate, or otherwise retaliate against an individual because that individual asserts a right or privilege under a law enforced by OCR or files a complaint, testifies, assists, or participates in a proceeding under a law enforced by OCR,” the letter warns the university. “If this happens, the individual may file a retaliation complaint with OCR.”
On the same day that the investigation began, it was announced that several college presidents would be testifying before Congress on the surge in anti-Semitism on college campuses across the country amidst the Israel-Hamas war. These include the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who are expected to testify on December 5th before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.