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U leaders respond to White House call to address antisemitism, anti-Muslim bias

On Nov. 7, President Joe Biden and the U.S. Department of Education called on higher education institutions to do more to curb Islamophobia and antisemitism on college and university campuses.

“All students, including students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab or Palestinian, as well as students who come from or are perceived to come from, all regions of the world, are entitled to a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color or national origin,” wrote Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights.

The letter is addressed to all U.S. schools that receive federal financial assistance and reminds them of the legal responsibility under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide a school environment “free of discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.” Title IX, adopted in 1972, barred discrimination on the basis of gender. And in 2022, the department clarified that Title IX also protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

University President Taylor Randall, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Michael Good and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Mitzi Montoya recommitted the U to combat bigotry and bias in a letter posted today.

“It is with no hesitation that we restate now, in the strongest of terms, that we condemn antisemitism, Islamophobia and discrimination on our campus. Racist and discriminatory acts are a violation of our code of conduct and a detriment to our community, and will be responded to as such,” university leaders said. “We cannot teach, learn, support or understand each other with the deafening noise of violence, ignorance, bigotry and hate as a backdrop. We have the shared responsibility and opportunity to reshape this trend and cultivate our campus community with tolerance and respect.”

The university’s Racist and Bias Incident Response Team (RBIRT) has documented a few cases of antisemitism and anti-Muslim vandalism and harassment since the conflict between Israel and Hamas flared in Gaza. At the same time, university leaders have noted an uptick in anti-Trans events and speech on campus during November, which is National Trans Awareness Month.

More information:

  • Read the “Dear Colleague” letter from the U.S. Department of Education
  • S. Department of Education fact sheet on protecting students from discrimination
  • Letter to the community on the Israel-Palestine crisis
  • Statement on dignity in campus culture
  • FAQ on free speech and academic freedom
  • Series about discrimination and how to prevent it; anti-Muslim bias; antisemitism bias