University of California, Santa Barbara accused of ignoring antisemitic bullying of student

‘They called me a genocide supporter, a baby killer, and pushed libel claims,’ said Jewish student government president, Tessa Veksler.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) has been accused of responding inadequately to the antisemitic harassment of its Jewish student government president, Tessa Veksler, and thus violating Title VI of the US Civil Rights Act, The Algemeiner has learned.

According to a civil rights complaint filed with the US Department of Education by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Veksler was endlessly bullied at UCSB after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Anti-Zionists there allegedly sent her threatening messages, called her a “Ziofascist,” and slashed pictures of her displayed around the campus.

In February, her bullies escalated their scare tactics, graffitiing over a dozen messages at the school’s Multicultural Center which called her a “neutral ass b—ch” and said “resistance is justified,” “you can run but you can’t hide Tessa Veksler,” and “get these Zionists out of office.”

Additionally, someone graffitied “Zionist not welcome” on a door, just inches away from a mezuzah, a small parchment scroll containing Hebrew verses from the Torah that members of the Jewish community fix to their doorposts

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Later, a faction of anti-Zionists in the student government attempted to remove Veksler from office.

The Brandeis Center alleges that UCSB did not address the problem in a way that is consistent with its obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which requires universities to implement robust measures that stop discriminatory behavior and prevent its recurrence.

“The harassment started online, and the university didn’t do anything to intervene despite Ms. Veksler’s pleading with them to intervene due to the negative effects on her mental health and the undermining of her ability to lead the student body,” Denise Katz-Prober, director of legal initiatives at the Brandies Center, told The Algemeiner during an interview on Friday.

“The harassment only intensified and continued, moving to the physical campus.”

Katz-Prober continued, “We’d like to see the university acknowledge, recognize, and condemn the anti-Zionist form of antisemitism that motivated the harassment which targeted Ms. Veksler on the basis of her Jewish identity. A statement they issued condemning ‘all forms of hate’ is just not enough given the antisemitism students are enduring in our time.”

Veksler is a senior political science major who was elected in April 2023 as president of UCSB Associated Students (AS), making history by becoming the school’s first ever Shabbat-observant student body president.

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At the time, Veksler told The Algemeiner that becoming president was always her “far-distant” goal. Since then, she has become one of the most recognized leaders of the pro-Zionist student movement, traveling to colleges across the country to speak to other students about the centrality of Zionism to Jewish identity and the importance of resisting antisemitism.

On Friday she told The Algemeiner that the discrimination she endured derailed her presidency.

“The incidents of the past seven months were designed to make my life miserable,” she said. “They called me a ‘genocide supporter,’ ‘a baby killer,’ and pushed libel claims. So much of it was based on information that is completely untrue. People accused me of doxxing students, although I never did, and that’s something that people continue to hang on to. People have even commented on my complaint, saying it’s ridiculous that a white person is pursuing a civil rights case.”

She continued, “They don’t want to recognize Jews as a minority group that can experience hate, but if you look at any of the things that people said to me online, calling me a ‘Ziofascist’ and a ‘Nazi,’ it’s obvious that my identity makes me a walking target.”

College campuses across the West have become hubs of antisemitism since the Oct. 7 attacks. Both students and faculty have demonized Israel and rationalized Hamas’ terror onslaught, and incidents of harassment and even violence against Jewish students have increased.

As a result, Jewish students, who in at least one instance were threatened with rape and mass murder, have reported feeling unsafe and unprotected.

Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) measured the rise of antisemitism on college campuses, finding a 321 percent increase in antisemitic incidents.

“What has been allowed to happen to Tessa over many months — shaming, harassing, and shunning a student until they disavow a part of their Judaism — is shameful and illegal,” Brandeis Center chairman and former US assistant education secretary Kenneth Marcus said on Thursday. “Sadly, this is not the first time we are seeing this mob behavior against a Jewish student elected by their student body to serve. It is incumbent upon UC Santa Barbara and all universities to say ‘enough is enough.’”