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DOE Now Investigating Ohio State University for Antisemitism

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating a complaint against Ohio State University, alleging the school failed to respond to antisemitic incidents on campus.

The agency opened its investigation into Ohio State, as well as three other universities and one school district, on Jan. 16 for alleged Title VI complaints. Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin, including shared ancestry, by universities that receive federal funding.

According to a Jan. 16 letter addressed to Ohio State President Ted Carter from the agency, a complainant alleged that Ohio State “discriminated against students on the basis of their national origin (shared Jewish ancestry) by failing to respond to incidents of harassment on the University campus during fall 2023.”

The other three institutions include the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the Oakland Unified School District in California.

OCR said in the letter that opening an investigation does not mean that a decision has been made about the complaint. Ohio State has 15 days to provide documentation to OCR for its investigation.

“Ohio State has never – and will never – tolerate discrimination or harassment of anyone based on their religious beliefs, nationality or identity,” said Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson.

Johnson said he didn’t have any additional information to share related to details within the complaint or the complainant.

There are currently more than 100 open DOE Title VI investigations dating back to 2016.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, colleges across the country have been grappling with student protests, acts of violence, discrimination complaints and allegations of Islamophobia and antisemitism on their campuses.

Ohio State was no exception, with several incidents occurring on and around campus.

A student on the Oval buying an “I Stand With Israel” bracelet on Oct. 18 was spit on by a male student, according to a Columbus police report. Another incident took place on Nov. 9, when two young women entered the OSU Hillel Wexner Jewish Student Center, shouted anti-Israel statements and threats, and vandalized Israeli flags in the building’s lobby.

On Nov. 10, two Ohio State students were assaulted by two men on North High Street. The suspects yelled a derogatory term and reportedly asked if the students were Jewish.

Two students inside the Alpha Epsilon Pi house, a Jewish fraternity not currently recognized by Ohio State, reported two people throwing bottles at their house and yelling “Jewish bastards” on Dec. 5, according to The Lantern, Ohio State’s student newspaper.

A December 2023 report published by Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies said that Ohio State was one of 12 universities considered “hotspots” of “highest antisemitic hostility.” The report consisted of student survey results collected from nearly 2,000 Jewish undergraduate students at 51 U.S. colleges with large Jewish student populations.

On his first day in office, Carter sent a message to the campus community regarding safety, security and civil discourse.

“Let me be clear: Our university is a place at which safety will not be compromised. I am committed to continually exploring ways in which we can enhance the safety and security of our community,” Carter wrote.

“We also will remain focused on creating an environment in which respect, civility and compassion are forefront while continuing Ohio State’s long-standing commitment to the First Amendment and upholding the laws of our state and country,” he continued. “This has been my expectation over the course of my 40 years in higher education and military service, and it will be my expectation as your president.”