US Dept of Education to investigate alleged anti-Semitism at California school
The Federal investigation comes following a complaint filed by the The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law on behalf of USC student Rose Ritch.
The harassment targeted Ritch’s 'ethnic Jewish identity by expressing support for the Jewish homeland in Israel.'
The US Department of Education has opened an investigation into the University of Southern California (USC) after a Jewish student faced harassment and was forced to resign from a student government position.
Ritch, a Jewish and openly Zionist student, was elected as Vice President of the University Student Government (USG) in February 2020.
According to Brandeis Center, by June of that year, a fellow USC student announced their intention to file formal impeachment complaints against Ritch over her support for the state of Israel.
The harassment targeted Ritch’s “ethnic Jewish identity by expressing support for the Jewish homeland in Israel.”
The Brandeis complaint also highlighted examples of harassment and cyberbullying from peers.
“[S]tudents ordered the USG President to ‘tell your Zionist a** VP to resign too,’ and demanded, ‘[the USG President] and the Zionist [referring to Ms. Ritch] need to be IMPEACHED!’”, the complaint states.
The document goes on to explain that the “discriminatory harassment against Ms. Ritch was so severe and persistent that it created a hostile environment that hindered her ability to continue serving in the USG.”
While USC suspended the impeachment, Ritch continued to face harassment by her peers and consequently resigned from her Vice President USG position in August 2020.
In her resignation letter, Ms. Ritch writes “[T]he people with whom I have shared a campus with for years, the people whom I desperately want to serve, have tried to make me feel ashamed, invalidated, and dehumanized because of who I am… At this point, resignation is the only sustainable choice I can make to protect my physical safety on campus and my mental health.”
The Brandeis Center argues that USC violated Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance.”
Denise Katz-Prober, Director of Legal Initiatives at the Brandeis Center, told Campus Reform that “USC’s failure to acknowledge or respond to the form of discrimination that Rose Ritch experienced is, unfortunately, not uncommon.”
She continued, “When Jewish students, like Rose Ritch, are targeted for marginalization and exclusion from campus activities merely because they express pride in or support for the existence of a Jewish state in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland, that is a form of unlawful discrimination, not a political debate.”
“Ritch articulated what so many Jewish students, faculty and others on campus have experienced (and continue to experience), which is an intense pressure to shed or renounce the Zionist component of their Jewish ethnic identity to gain admission into social justice spaces and other activities on campus. Universities are misdiagnosing the issue and, as a result, failing to protect Jewish students from unlawful discrimination,” Katz-Prober concluded.
USC officials did not respond to Campus Reform’s requests for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.