December 1, 2020
RE: Continuing Longstanding Executive Policy of Extending Title VI Protection to Jewish Students Facing Antisemitic Discrimination
Dear President-Elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Transition Team:
We write on behalf of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, divisions of StandWithUs, an international, non-profit education organization supporting Israel and combating antisemitism. We write to address the critical issue of rising antisemitism nationwide and a correlating hostile campus environment for Jewish students. We ask that you honor the longstanding bipartisan practice of protecting Jewish students facing antisemitic discrimination by extending Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) protections to them, including the most recent 2019 Executive Order.
As you are likely aware, Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. If such discrimination occurs, the institution receiving the funds has an obligation to take proactive, corrective measures to protect its constituents or else risk losing its federal funding altogether.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has repeatedly extended Title VI protections to religious groups, including Jews, when the discrimination is “based on the group’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.” Fortunately, this has been a point of bipartisan consensus. In 2004, President Bush extended Title VI protection, in 2010 President Obama did the same, and in 2019 President Trump did as well. In particular, the 2019 Executive Order on Combating Antisemitism both recognized that Jewish students facing antisemitic discrimination on campuses enjoy protection under Title VI and mandated that agencies enforcing Title VI consider the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism when investigating Title VI violations based on antisemitism. The IHRA definition of antisemitism has been adopted by the U.S. Department of State and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, making its inclusion in the 2019 Executive Order a natural extension for Title VI protection.
We recognize that with any change in presidential administration comes changes in personnel, priorities, and policies, however we hope that this does not impact Title VI. The executive orders, and the 2019 Executive Order in particular, have significantly impacted the climate Jewish students face on our nation’s campuses. While there is much work still to do, we have found that universities better understand what constitutes antisemitism and can therefore more adequately address antisemitism targeting Jewish students due to the executive orders. We hope your administration will continue this bipartisan support.
Thank you for your leadership and your attention to this matter of great importance to the Jewish community.
CEO & Cofounder, StandWithUs
StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department
StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism