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Middlebury College faces federal antisemitism investigation

‘We look forward to working with OCR as their investigation explores the allegations against Middlebury outlined in our Title VI complaint’

Middlebury College is facing a federal antisemitism investigation after an Israel advocacy group filed a complaint.

“StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice was notified by the Office for Civil Rights…that it has opened an investigation into Middlebury College,” the group told The College Fix via email on Tuesday.

OCR “is looking into the egregious disparate treatment of Jews taking place at Middlebury,” according to a media statement from Yael Lerman, director of the legal center.

“We look forward to working with OCR as their investigation explores the allegations against Middlebury outlined in our Title VI complaint,” Lerman told The Fix.

The private college acknowledged some criticisms of it raised by the Center for Legal Justice in its Feb 16. complaint, but then edited their statements, the group stated.

In its original response, the university stated that it “supported a vigil honoring the Palestinian people and their struggle for liberation.”

Campus officials then deleted that post and reuploaded it with different wording, stating instead the university “worked with Muslim organizations to support a vigil honoring the Palestinian people.”

Middlebury wrote in the original post that university President Laurie Patton condemned Hamas in a statement she sent to be read aloud at a vigil organized by Jewish students.

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However, the remarks did not contain any mention of Hamas or their actions during the October 7 attacks but rather condemned the “deeply painful, destructive, and unacceptable violence we have seen in Israel and Gaza.”

School administrators also confirmed in the post that the statement “from the river to the sea,” a call for the genocide of the Jews according to StandWithUs, is “consistent” with the university’s free speech policies.

The university did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent in the past two weeks.

The Fix reached out to the president of the university and a campus spokesperson prior to the OCR announcement to ask if they believed the actions of administrators alleged in the complaint were compliant with Title VI and why they edited their response to the allegations several times.

One of the alleged instances of antisemitism referenced in the complaint involved a vigil organized by Jewish students on campus to honor lives lost in the October 7 attacks that university administrators purportedly “attempted to prevent and then to limit the Jewish students’ request for a police presence,” according to the complaint.

The complaint further alleges that campus officials told the students “to not display any Israeli flags during the event and to remove the word ‘Jewish’ from all literature for the event.”

The complaint also alleged Middlebury ignored complaints from Jewish students who alleged members of the campus Students for Justice in Palestine chapter intimidated students by blocking entrances to the dining halls.

Another incident mentioned in the complaint involved a Jewish student who allegedly faced disciplinary action after reporting a resident assistant in a campus dormitory for having the words “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” posted on their door.

Though the statement is generally understood to refer to the destruction of Israel, many college students do not understand what it means.

The StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice has initiated legal action against other universities as well.

The group filed a federal lawsuit on Feb. 21 against Columbia University and Barnard College “on behalf of Jewish and Israeli Columbia students who are victims of egregious and ongoing antisemitism.”

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About the Author
Jack Applewhite -- University of Georgia