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Columbia University Slapped with Major Lawsuit over Antisemitism

Columbia University was sued by a Jewish graduate student who claims the campus experienced an “explosion” of antisemitism since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. 

Mackenzie Forrest, 23, claims she faced discrimination because she’s an Orthodox Jew and Sabbath observer, but the campus turned “virulently hostile” after the Hamas attack. She cited protests calling for the genocide of Jews as well as antisemitic manifestos in the School of Social Work, where she studied.

Earlier Monday, a US House committee investigating antisemitism on college campuses sent a letter to Columbia and its trustees requesting documents and information regarding various incidents it says shows the school’s failure to protect Jewish students in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack.

The events in Israel and Gaza “unleashed an explosion of antisemitism on the Columbia campus, rendering it, at least temporarily, unsafe for Jewish students,” according to Forrest’s complaint in New York federal court. “Columbia became a ‘war zone’ for Macky simply because she is a Jew.” 

A Columbia spokesperson declined to comment on Forrest’s suit.

Forrest filed her complaint under Title VI of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964, which Jewish students have used in recent weeks to sue Harvard University, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania and University of California, Berkeley.

A Florida resident, Forrest started working toward a master’s degree at the School of Social Work in August 2022 and joined the dialectical behavior therapy program in May 2023, according to the complaint.

She feared for her safety after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas massacre of 1,200 people in Israel, the complaint said. Almost 28,000 people have been killed by Israel’s retaliatory air and ground assault on Gaza, according to health officials in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.

When Forrest asked to continue in the DBT program remotely, the school “did not consider her concerns for her personal safety to be worthy of accommodation,” she claimed. The school retaliated, telling her for the first time that she risked failing the field placement portion of the program.  

“Faced with the totally fabricated threat of receiving a failing grade, Macky ‘chose’ to leave the DBT program,” she claimed. 

She claimed Columbia failed to enforce its own rules of conduct to prevent “anti-Jewish harassment, threats, intimidation and hostile environments.”

Columbia also faces a US Department of Education investigation into a 2019 complaint by a Jewish student who claimed the school violated Title VI, which bars discrimination based on race, color or national origin. 

That complaint was filed by the Lawfare Project, which seeks to defend the civil rights of Jewish people through litigation. It also sued Columbia on behalf of Forrest. 

The case is Mackenzie Forrest v. The Trustees of Columbia University, 24-cv-1034, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).