UVM settles US Education Dept. antisemitism complaint
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The U.S. Department of Education has resolved an investigation addressing the University of Vermont’s response to allegations of antisemitic incidents on campus.
The investigation was launched back in September following a complaint filed by the Louis B. Brandeis Center alleging discrimination against the Jewish community. The center says it compiled Jewish student complaints and when presented to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, that investigation was launched.
The Education Department was investigating allegations of incidents on UVM’s campus including a teaching assistant tweeting antisemitic sentiments. An incident of students throwing small rocks and items with sticky substances at the Hillel building and when a student asked them to stop, they responded with, “Are you Jewish?” And also, the exclusion of Jewish students from student groups followed by antisemitic tweets.
In a letter dated Monday, the Education Department said they have concerns UVM’s failure to investigate these incidents could have hurt Jewish students and allowed a hostile learning environment for some students to persist.
The two parties came to an agreement and UVM is committing to a review of its policies and procedures around discrimination; training of university staff, students and leadership on anti-harassment and discrimination policy; reviewing the most recent campus climate survey for more antisemitic incidents and reporting back to the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Education.
“This is a big victory. I am absolutely delighted to see a resolution between the Department of Education and UVM,” said Kenneth Marcus of the Louis D. Brandeis Center.
The Louis D. Brandeis Center, which filed the complaint, says UVM should have addressed the concerns before the complaints were filed. Now, they look forward to seeing how the university puts the agreement into practice.
“There is a lot of question about whether the University of Vermont will realize its commitment under this agreement that gets to the problem or not,” Marcus said.
UVM sent a letter to the campus community Monday signaling their commitment to fighting antisemitism on campus, saying, in part, “The university will use all tools at its disposal to address and eliminate the hostile behavior and enable each member of our community to learn and work in an inclusive environment that leans into our common ground values.”
It goes on to read the university will be updating its policies to make it clear discrimination and harassment, including antisemitism, violate university policy.
UVM declined an interview but said in a statement: “The resolution reflects our ongoing engagement with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the surrounding community. It also reflects numerous conversations with the Jewish community on campus and important local and national voices on the consequential and complex issue of antisemitism.”
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