Anti-Semitism at Cal
By Elijah Z. Granet Special to the Daily Cal
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
When a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, dismissed claims that the university had failed to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism on campus, many thought that it could create a watershed moment for Berkeley. Leading the fray was The Daily Californian, which made the almost Panglossian prediction that the report “could mark a new era for the campus community.”
Though I wish that the Daily Cal’s conclusion was correct, the fact is that the OCR’s conclusions are limited only to the legal matter of the university’s liability with regards to the civil rights of minority students. Although the OCR acknowledged the occurrence of hostile acts directed against Jews, they concluded that because there is no law compelling the university to prevent students from being personally offended or hurt, the university made no legal infractions. Indeed, for the OCR to have taken action, they would need evidence that the university had failed to stop direct coordinated actions against Jews. Given that the issues faced by Jewish students come from a widespread general bias across the entire student body and not from a single organization, the OCR would never find Berkeley to be legally liable, no matter the degree of hostility faced by Jewish students.
However, as any Cal student or alum could likely confirm, Berkeley has chosen to commit itself to principles beyond the law. The university’s well-known dedication to protecting student rights and concern with matters of justice is at the very core of our identity. These values, even if not made explicit in federal law, explicitly bar the actions that led to the legal complaint filed with the OCR. The report may legally exonerate Cal, but it does not excuse the university, faculty and students from the grave moral failing of our community in dealing with the baseless hatred in our midst.
It is an incontrovertible fact that over the past several years, Jewish students at Berkeley have had to deal with numerous hate incidents, including verbal, written and physical assaults. Jewish students have been called horrendous, unprintable things. They have been shoved and pushed. In campus housing, the past several years have seen repeated occurrences of swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti. (more…)