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UNC pledges to crack down on anti-Semitism to end Education Department civil rights probe

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will expand protections for its Jewish students to resolve a civil rights probe by the U.S. Education Department looking into complaints of campus anti-Semitism.

“The agreement ends an Education Department civil rights investigation into potential illegal discrimination on the part of the university without an admission of guilt or official finding by the department,” National Review reports.

The complaints stemmed from the March academic conference at UNC titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities,” reports the Associated Press, noting it “included a Palestinian rapper who performed a song that some critics called anti-Semitic. The university’s chancellor said the performance left him ‘heartbroken and deeply offended.’”

“Two weeks after the conference, anti-Semitic flyers were found on campus warning of an ‘evil Jewish plot to enslave and kill,’ according to the Education Department. The complaint argued that the school’s support of the conference amounted to discrimination against students of Jewish descent. It said the flyers were further evidence of a ‘hostile environment’ created by the event,” AP reported.

National Review reports that in April, “Republican North Carolina congressman George Holding wrote a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling the federally-funded conference ‘anti-Semitic.’ The Education Department later threatened to pull federal funding from the group behind the conference, the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, accusing it of emphasizing the ‘positive aspects’ of Islam over other religions.”

On Monday, interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote a campuswide memo required as part of the agreement that reiterated the institution stands against anti-Semitism, stating: “I reaffirm the university’s commitment to creating a place where every member of our community feels safe and respected and can thrive in an environment free from anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination and harassment.”

While not admitting wrongdoing, the university stated in the agreement with the Education Department it will “continue to take all steps reasonably designed to ensure that students enrolled in the university are not subjected to a hostile environment and to respond to allegations of anti-Semitic harassment.”

ABC reports the university also agreed to:

Update written policies to include more references to anti-Semitism and “provide a clear definition of anti-Semitism that can manifest in the University environment.”

New training and orientation offered by the University for the next three academic years. The programs must include components on “prohibited harassment, including anti-Semitic harassment.” …

UNC must host at least one meeting “providing students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to discuss” with UNC administrators “any concerns they have about incidents of prohibited harassment.”

Read the related articles at National Review, ABC and Associated Press.

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