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College in California Under FBI Investigation for Antisemitism

Santa Monica College (SMC) has been added to a list of educational institutions under investigation by the federal government for civil rights violations.

SMC was one of six schools added to a list of investigations last week after an initial group of educational institutions were identified by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights as under investigation for alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in November.

So far the list includes Harvard University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Lafayette College, Wellesley College, Tulane University, University of Tampa, University of Pennsylvania, University of Cincinnati, Montana State University, Union College and SMC. Several school districts are on the list including Cobb County School District, New York City Department of Education, Clark County School District, Hillsborough County Schools and Maize Unified School District.

According to the Dept. of Education, these investigations focus on shared ancestry violations, addressing discrimination and harassment, including antisemitism, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab incidents, since the Israel-Hamas conflict in October 2023.

“Hate has no place in our schools, period. When students are targeted because they are — or are perceived to be — Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, or any other ethnicity or shared ancestry, schools must act to ensure safe and inclusive educational environments where everyone is free to learn,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “These investigations underscore how seriously the Biden-Harris Administration, including the U.S. Department of Education, takes our responsibility to protect students from hatred and discrimination.”

According to SMC Trustee Dr. Sion Roy, the local case stems from students excluding Students Supporting Israel (SSI) from campus activities.

SSI describes itself as “a rapidly growing Zionist international campus movement that supports the State of Israel.” While the local chapter of the organization had qualified as a fully functional club on campus, students at an October meeting of SMC’s Inter-Club Council’s (ICC) denied SSI status as an official club citing opposition to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, in violation of federal law.

The SMC administration reversed that decision the next day.

“Based on legal advice received from Campus Counsel, there is no lawful basis to deny recognition to SSI as a student club,” said a statement released by the SMC Office of Student Life the day after the meeting. “SSI will be given recognized status and full club support at 66% funding determined by the Inter-Club Council Constitution until the club can be officially recognized at the next Inter-Club Council meeting.”

SMC said it was aware of the complaint and is responding to the concerns of students.

“On December 4, 2023, Santa Monica College received a letter from the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education asking us to respond to a complaint concerning the Associated Students’ Inter-Club Council meeting of October 19, 2023,” said Director of Public Information Grace A. Smith. “When students brought their concerns to the attention of College administrators, the College took prompt action on October 20, 2023 and shared publicly the steps it took to immediately redress a situation in which the Associated Students’ ICC failed to install Students Supporting Israel at SMC (SSI-SMC) as a club.

“This prompt action demonstrates the college’s commitment to a discrimination-free environment for all students and was acknowledged by SSI-SMC via a post on their official Instagram account that same day. The college stands against all forms of hate, including antisemitism. Most recently, on Nov. 7, 2023 the SMC Board of Trustees passed a resolution in support of United Against Hate week which acknowledged the increases in anti-Semitism amid other ongoing acts of hate and discrimination against marginalized groups throughout the nation.”

The club thanked the school for their action but said the incident shouldn’t have happened to start with.

“The SSI at SMC team would like to thank everyone of you for the support you have shown us,” the club wrote on social media. “It is through your support that the decision not to install the SSI club was rectified. As of now are installed as an official club, and thank Santa Monica College for their swift response to our concerns. Their cooperation and professionalism make us proud to be SMC students. However, let us not forget about the blatant antisemitism that caused such an issue to begin with. That is something that will not be tolerated. We love you all and with you all a Shabbat Shalom.”

In addition to overriding the student’s exclusion, SMC officials addressed the issue with the Club Council informing them of their obligations under the law.

“SMC’s office of student life had a prompt response in support of reinstating SSI as a recognized club and took steps to ensure an environment at ICC free from antisemitism or other forms of discrimination,” said Dr. Sion Roy, Santa Monica College Trustee on social media. “All discrimination is abhorrent and the increased acts of antisemitism across the world is unacceptable, especially on our campus. The college will continue to do everything it can to make sure that all students are heard and treated equally.”

Despite the school’s response, the club’s advisor, Darryl-Keith Ogata, escalated the incident to federal officials saying Jewish students had been made to feel unsafe.

“As their faculty advisor I am again disappointed that SMC is unable to provide a safe environment for students to learn and experience extracurricular activities. Discrimination of any kind is not acceptable. Antisemitism has no place in public institutions of higher learning like SMC,” he said in a letter to school officials following the incident.

Source: https://smdp.com/2023/12/12/accusations-of-antisemitism-prompt-federal-investigation-of-smc/