Ohio State University accused of ignoring antisemitism, strongly denies claims

On campus, maltreatment of Jewish students has been allegedly common and unpunished. 

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

Three major nonprofit organizations have joined forces as co-litigants in a civil rights complaint alleging that Ohio State University (OSU) has grossly foundered in responding to numerous incidents of antisemitic harassment and discrimination since Oct. 7, thus violating Title VI of the US Civil Rights Act.

The university’s alleged neglect began just weeks after the Hamas terror group’s massacre of Israeli civilians, according to the complaint — which was filed by StandWithUs (SWU), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

In November, five Jewish students on their way to an off-campus event were brutally assaulted by two men who had detained and interrogated them to determine if they were Jewish, the complaint said.

Finding their answer, the two men allegedly shouted “Free Palestine!” and slugged one Jewish student each, breaking one’s jaw and the other’s nose and leaving one of them bleeding effusively.

The complaint added that OSU Medical Center employees cut deeper wounds into their psyches by denying one of the injured students more than one visitor and prohibiting the other a seat in the waiting room, forcing them to stand “outside in the freezing cold for over five hours.”

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No one, the complaint added, has explained why the Jewish students were treated so callously.

“Since Oct. 7, Jewish students on campuses nationwide have faced unprecedented antisemitic harassment and discrimination,” StandWithUs chief executive officer Roz Rothstein said in a press release announcing the action.

“Ohio State University is no exception. Antisemitism is expressed openly; blatant verbal and physical threats and attacks on Jewish students often go unaddressed by the administration. By filing this Title VI federal complaint, we aim to hold the administration accountable.”

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in programs and activities that receive federal funding.

On campus, maltreatment of Jewish students has been allegedly common and unpunished.

Between December and February, anti-Zionists there, both students and non-students, have ordered Jewish students to remove articles of clothing bearing pro-Israel slogans, desecrated mezuzahs, disrupted Shabbat dinners held by OSU Hillel by screaming “Free Palestine,” and pantomimed “white power” hand gestures after stealing Israeli flags.

In one shocking incident, a non-student who strayed on campus refused to sign a petition denouncing antisemitism that was being circulated by Jewish students and told them that he wanted to murder Jews.

He was, however, apprehended by the police and banned from campus.

“We believe all the evidence shows that despite a pattern of escalating harassment and intimidation, Ohio State University administrators, faculty, and staff repeatedly failed in their duty to protect Jewish and Israeli students from such attacks,” ADL chief executive officer Jonathan Greenblatt said in a press release announcing the legal action.

“We urge the US Department of Education to investigate these incidents and compel the university to take immediate action to address the pervasively hostile environment for Jewish and Israeli students on OSU’s campus.”

On Wednesday, Ohio State University shared with The Algemeiner a lengthy statement denying that it has been lax in addressing antisemitism and insisting that several of the incidents cited in the civil rights complaint have never been reported to the university.

The school added that it has fully adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been widely embraced by Jewish organizations, governments, and civic institutions around the world.

“Through both our words and, importantly, our actions, we continually reaffirm and communicate messaging focused on our expectations regarding an environment of respect and compassion during this extraordinarily difficult time for many on our campuses,” the school said in a response sent to StandWithUs, the main principal litigant of the complaint.

“It is very disappointing that your letter to us does not accurately represent what has occurred at Ohio State or the university’s strong and ongoing response, which is outlined below. Please be assured the university has both acted and spoken.”

The response added that the university has increased police “presence” on campus and pressed charges against the students who vandalized a mezuzah at OSU Hillel.

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Further contradicting the complaint, the school said that the assault of Jewish students by two men occurred not during a walk but outside a bar off campus, continuing a conflict that had begun inside.

“We have received information from parents and other external stakeholders indicating they heard the victims in this case were assaulted on their way home from the Chabad house near campus,” it continued.

“This information is not accurate. The assault occurred when the victims left a bar near campus where the altercation is believed to have begun before it escalated outside of the bar.”

StandWithUs fired back on Tuesday in a statement acknowledging that it has amended the complaint to reflect newly emerged details but arguing that OSU has still left much undone.

“While OSU’s response identifies a number of ways the administration asserts it is working to address the antisemitic climate on its campus, the reality is that between the time of OSU’s response and the filing of this complaint, based on information from students and campus stakeholders, that hostile climate has not improved,” Rothstein said.

“To the extent that there are factual discrepancies between the complaint’s allegations and OSU’s understanding of these matters, this is one of many reasons OCR intervention is necessary; it is far too common for administrators to misunderstand the realities of contemporary antisemitism.”

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