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Universities nationwide face antisemitism lawsuits en masse

UCLA was hit this week with a discrimination lawsuit alleging administrators allowed students to take control of the campus and establish “Jew exclusion” zones.

The complaint marks the second lawsuit in the span of one month to be filed against UCLA alleging rampant antisemitism, part of a bevy of legal actions universities across the nation face in the aftermath of aggressive, and sometimes violent, pro-Palestinian campus protests.

Multiple colleges and universities face antisemitism lawsuits that cite in part unlawful encampments, verbal assaults, and hostile takeovers of their schools in recent months in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens on Oct. 7. Harvard, Northwestern, Rutgers, UNLV and UC Davis are all grappling with such suits, among others.

Columbia University — which made national headlines in May after pro-Hamas activists took over a campus building — was too, but this week settled with a Jewish student who had filed the complaint, agreeing to “the creation of a ‘Safe Passage Liaison’ who will have authority to open alternative entrances and exits to students with existing 24-hour security escorts,” the Washington Post reported.

Some of the lawsuits aim for class-action status.

“On May 20, 2024, a Northwestern University student filed a class action lawsuit against the school, alleging that inaction by its leadership against antisemitic behavior fostered a hostile on-campus environment that traumatized its Jewish student population,” a FeganScott case overview states of the lawsuit against Northwestern.

According to its website, FeganScott “is a nationwide class action law firm.”

“For months, Northwestern and its leadership chose to turn a blind eye to rising antisemitism in hopes that it wouldn’t reach crisis levels, and it completely consumed the campus,” attorney Jonathan Lindenfeld of FeganScott said in a provided statement to The College Fix.

“Through our lawsuit, we intend to set a precedent that universities do not have a choice when it comes to addressing potential threats to students, including antisemitism, and must take meaningful action to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone on their campuses,” Lindenfeld said.

Northwestern did not respond to requests from The College Fix seeking comment.

At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Jewish student Corey Gerwaski “is suing the university and several student groups that support Palestine, alleging he experienced antisemitism on campus…that led to pain and suffering,” KSNV News 3 reported.

“Antisemitism in colleges becomes U.S. government policy post-university,” Sigal Chattah, one of Gerwaski’s attorneys, told The College Fix via email.

The UNLV case is not only about antisemitism, Chattah said. It is also about “anti-American policies that we are seeing today and the threat of U.S. foreign policy.”

“The failure of academia to address these progressive narratives over the course of decades is how we got to the situation we are today,” Chattah said.

Tony Allen, a spokesman for UNLV, told The Fix that the university “does not comment on active litigation.”

At UC Davis, Jewish resident Jonathan Groveman is suing the school over civil rights violations, CBS News reports.

UC Davis faces “a federal lawsuit filed against it by a Jewish, pro-Israel community member who says his civil rights were violated on campus when trying to counter-protest an ongoing pro-Palestinian encampment.”

Groveman alleges “the encampment is discriminatory in nature” against both those with disabilities by surrounding a sidewalk–thus violating ADA requirements–and the Jewish community.

Reached for comment, James Nash of the UC Davis news and media relations division told The College Fix: “UC Davis is committed to a safe and peaceful campus environment that respects our community’s right to free expression while maintaining our educational and research mission without disruption.”

Additionally, “when the university receives a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability, hostile environment, or other offensive behavior, it immediately reaches out to the affected parties to provide support and resources, and reviews the allegations under the university’s anti-discrimination policy.”

At UCLA, in addition to the lawsuit filed this week over the “Jew exclusion” zones, UCLA student Liana Nitka sued her school in May in a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging “civil rights violations, negligence, assault … and breach of contract,” NBC Los Angeles reports.

Reached for comment, UCLA spokesman Eddie North-Hager told The College Fix: “We are aware of the filed complaint. UCLA remains committed to supporting the safety and wellbeing of the entire Bruin community.”

UCLA stated it is unable to comment further “because this filing involves ongoing litigation.”

Rutgers also declined to comment to The College Fix about the antisemitism lawsuit it faces.

One of the most prestigious institutions in the nation, Harvard, also joined the ranks of schools facing lawsuits.

“The Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jewish Americans for Fairness in Education accused Harvard of ‘deliberately’ ignoring antisemitism on campus and creating ‘an unbearable educational environment’ for Jewish students in a lawsuit filed last week,” the Harvard Crimson reported.

Neither the Brandeis Center nor Harvard responded to The Fix’s emailed requests for comment.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of the AMCHA Initiative told The Fix that “whether as students, alumni, faculty, parents, donors, taxpayers, or concerned citizens, virtually everyone is a stakeholder in higher education.”

The AMCHA Initiative is “is a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating antisemitism at institutions of higher education in America,” according to its website.

Rossman-Benjamin urges everyone to “use whatever clout and means they have – be it legal, financial, legislative, or grassroots advocacy – to hold university leaders accountable for stopping the virulent antisemitism that is spiraling out of control on their campuses.”

“This will only happen when schools establish and enforce policies ensuring that Jewish students – and all students – are equally and adequately protected from behavior that no student should have to endure,” Rossman-Benjamin said.

MORE: USC Jewish center vandalized, glass door smashed

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Tate Miller is a student at Liberty University studying journalism. She is the founder Thatsasnap Productions, a photography business launched in 2018.