Trial date set for anti-Semitism suit involving San Francisco State U

A case filed by students who accused San Francisco State University of systematic discrimination against Jews is set for trial in March 2019.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A trial date of March 4, 2019 has been set for a lawsuit brought by two Jewish students at San Francisco State University (SFSU) against the university and the Board of Trustees of California State University (CSU) for alleged discrimination on the basis of their faith.

The trial’s venue will be California’s Superior Court with the case filed under the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. The student’s are represented by an Israeli organization called the Lawfare Project and the international law firm of Winston & Strawn LLP, which specializes in discrimination suits.

The basis of the suit is an incident in February 2017 when the campus Hillel group was “intentionally and surreptitiously” barred from participating in a “Know Your Rights” information fair at SFSU after having been invited to attend.

The university admitted to Hillel five months after the fact that it had been “improper” to exclude it, but the lawsuit claims that the decision had been sanctioned by university officials.

As reported by the Jewish News of Northern California at the time, an SFSU employee with inside knowledge informed Hillel that the event’s organizing committee, which included the General Union of Palestine Students, arbitrarily cut off registration for the express purpose of not allowing Hillel House to join, while SFSU personnel looked on.

Although the lawsuit concentrates on this single incident, the atmosphere at SFSU for Jewish students has been demonstrably hostile.

The Lawfare Project’s director of legal affairs, Amanda Berman, pointed out that the president of the university, Les Wong, “suggested that the physical safety of Jews on campus is a ‘political issue’” and that the faculty advisor for one of the groups on the fair’s organizing committee  compared Zionists to “white supremacists, the KKK, neo-Nazis, homophobes, and misogynists.”

Seth Weisburst of Winston and Strawn LLP, expressed confidence that his clients would prevail, noting in a statement that “San Francisco State University is widely recognized as one of the country’s most anti-Semitic campuses, and the more information that comes out about what’s happening at SFSU, the more disturbing the picture becomes.”

The Lawfare Project and Winston & Strawn also partnered with one another in a federal lawsuit against SFSU administrators and faculty members and CSU. This case involves seven Jewish plaintiffs alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Judge William Orrick, III will hear arguments in that case in July.