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Dept. of Education Investigates Williams College Over Anti-Semitism Claims

06-05-2019
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Williams College in Massachusetts is being investigated by the US Department of Education for allegedly discriminating against Jewish students by refusing to recognize a pro-Israel club on campus. 

The department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in Boston opened an investigation into the school after a complaint was filed claiming that the college's student government, officially known as the "College Council", violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, The College Fix reported. 

On April 23, the council rejected the Williams Initiative for Israel club's application for recognition despite meeting all required bylaws. According to The Williams Record, it was the first time a student group had been denied recognition in more than 10 years. 

After the vote, Williams College President Maud Mandel said she was "disappointed" in the council, which she believes failed to abide by its "own process for reviewing student groups." She then said the pro-Israel club would be given all of the benefits of recognition even if the council did not approve them. 

George Mason University law professor David Bernstein filed the complaint against the college with Boston's OCR and accused the council of racism against Jews. 

"Discriminating against a student group organized by Jewish students for the purpose of supporting Israel constitutes discrimination against Jewish students on the basis of ethnicity or race. The antisemitic statements made in the course of the debate, as well as the unusual procedures undertaken, provide evidence of anti-Jewish motive," read the complaint, which was provided to The College Fix

Bernstein said that before the council voted, student leaders accused Israel of genocide against the Palestinians, "a charge so facially absurd and contrary to facts that it can only be explained by antisemitism, and is resonant of historical blood libel."

Even though the council voted against recognizing the pro-Israel group, it fully recognizes the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organization on campus. 

Bernstein filed the complaint on May 2, and on May 31 the OCR responded saying it opened up an investigation into the school. 

Williams spokesperson Greg Shook told The Fix that the college "welcomes the opportunity" to work with OCR.

"Our goal is to educate our students about governance and campus climate," Shook said. "Partnering with OCR is a valuable way to move that effort forward."

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