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StandWithUs Urges Universities Nationwide to Adopt Best Practices for Anti-Israel Protests on Campus

Updated: Apr 2

University administrators have tried to justify their refusal to enforce existing university policies to protect Jewish and Israeli students from harassment, discrimination, and physical assault during campus protests based on a misapplication of First Amendment principles. In the letter below, StandWithUs wrote to universities to review recommendations recently published by Columbia University’s Task Force on Antisemitism and to institute these and StandWithUs' recommendations to ensure equal protection of Jewish students during campus demonstrations.


March 28, 2024


Re: Recommended Best Practices for Anti-Israel Demonstrations on Campus


Dear General Counsel and Vice President of Student Affairs,


We write to you from StandWithUs, an international, nonprofit organization with the mission of educating about Israel and combating antisemitism. Since Hamas’s October 7th invasion, when thousands of Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists and armed citizens from Gaza slaughtered well over 1,000 people in Israel and took over 200 hostages into Gaza, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have skyrocketed. This is especially the case on college campuses, where Jewish and Israeli students have been targeted for antisemitic discrimination and harassment.


We are contacting you today specifically about this harassment of Jews in the context of antiIsrael campus protests. Since October 7, reports from campuses across the country indicate that far too many university administrators have failed to address this issue adequately. They have offered justifications based on a misapplication of First Amendment principles to explain their refusal to enforce existing university policies that exist to protect students in the campus environment—including Jewish and Israeli students—from harassment, discrimination, and physical assault.


We call upon you to exercise your authority to bring your campus in line with federal laws, especially Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, as well as your contractual obligations, which compel you to enforce your own policies to ensure that Jewish and Israeli students receive the same educational opportunities as all other students. This includes the ability to walk safely on campus and know that the university and campus police will protect them should they be targeted due to their protected Jewish and Israeli identities.


To help you achieve this end, we urge you to review the recommendations recently published by Columbia University’s Task Force on Antisemitism, as well as our recommendations below. We recognize that your university’s rules and procedures, as well as the experiences of your student body, may differ from Columbia’s, but we believe these recommendations are relevant to nearly all schools experiencing unlawful activity at campus protests impacting Jewish and Israeli students. Importantly, and as the Task Force report correctly recognizes, it is possible—and imperative—that administrators safeguard expression that is in fact constitutionally protected and simultaneously comply with antidiscrimination laws, which incorporate the understanding that in some circumstances pure speech (even that which in other circumstances might be constitutionally protected) falls outside the bounds of such protection and must be restricted and/or punished to protect the rights of others.


In accordance with the foregoing and to maintain a campus environment of civility and equality, we recommend that your administration adopt the following measures:


1) Enact time, place, and manner restrictions for protests:


a. Prohibit protests in academic buildings, libraries, dormitories, dining halls, and near the entrances of those buildings.

b. Establish, publish, and enforce designated locations for protests and designated times.

c. Limit sound amplification, such as megaphones.

d. Create a notice requirement for protests.

e. Permit signs and banners at authorized protests but prohibit the hanging of banners and the projection of videos or images on any interior or exteriors of buildings unless the

administration previously approved it.

f. Restrict attendance to those with university IDs.

g. Grant authority to university personnel to record videos and photograph protesters who do not have an expectation of privacy.


2) Respond to violations as they occur, not after the fact:


a. University representatives should inform demonstrators they are violating the rules, offer a card with the relevant rules, and ask them to disperse within a set time, such as ten minutes. “Relevant rules” can include informing protestors that their names will be taken down and disciplinary proceedings initiated if they do not comply with the policy.

b. After the specified time has elapsed and demonstrators remain, public safety officers should ask demonstrators for their IDs. If the demonstrators refuse to comply with that request—a rule violation in and of itself—their photos should be taken (even if they are masked) so that they may be identified for future disciplinary proceedings.

c. Ensure sufficient staffing for enforcement of time, place, and manner restrictions.


3) Discourage deans, department chairs and faculty from speaking at unauthorized demonstrations or shielding the identity of students who violate the university’s rules.


4) Robustly enforce campus policies, including by investigating incidents, initiating disciplinary processes, and imposing sanctions, where warranted, in a timely manner.


5) Provide the university community aggregate data about the number and type of disciplinary investigations, adjudications, and consequences relating to antisemitic incidents, which is not barred from disclosure under the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA).


6) Provide more informed guidance to staff on identifying antisemitic harassment and discrimination, as well as understanding the limits of free speech. We suggest you utilize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism (“IHRA Definition”) to identify what constitutes antisemitic harassment and discrimination at these protests and to aid in investigations of policy violations. The IHRA definition is a critical tool which is used by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in the investigation of complaints of antisemitic discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


7) End the practice of disparate treatment of Jewish students during campus protests. Many universities apply campus rules and norms differently to Jewish students than they do to other groups. Under both federal constitutional provisions and nondiscrimination laws, the university must treat protected classes equally by applying its standards consistently. For example, if a university defers to one protected class in defining which statements are considered biased or hateful towards its members, it must show equal deference to other protected groups, including Jewish and Israeli students.


By adopting the foregoing recommendations, you will take a significant step toward combating the scourge of antisemitism festering on college campuses since October 7, 2023, and without which such bigotry and its harmful effects will almost certainly worsen. If we can be of assistance in this matter, please reach out to us at legal@standwithus.com and/or cca@standwithus.com. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.


Sincerely,



Roz Rothstein Yael Lerman

CEO Director

StandWithUs StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department


Carly Gammill

Director

StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism



Gadi Dotz

Assistant Director

StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department





                                     

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