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Senators Warner, Kaine Urge Department of Education to Combat Antisemitism and Islamophobia on College Campuses

"Hate has no place in America, and our educational institutions play a pivotal role in ensuring that"

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From Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine

WARNER AND KAINE URGE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO COMBAT ANTISEMITISM AND ISLAMOPHOBIA ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

 ~ Amid rising reports of hate speech and violence, senators call for more outreach and action ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) wrote to U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Miguel Cardona to urge the DOE to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia on college and university campuses. Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas crisis, higher education institutions have seen a precipitous rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia, including hate speech, harassment, and violence – creating an environment of fear and vulnerability for students.

“We write to express our concern about the alarming rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the United States following the recent violence in Israel and Gaza. These events have had a profound impact on our college and university campuses, where students of all backgrounds come together to learn and engage,” the senators wrote.

The letter draws attention to a few specific and recent examples of Islamophobia and antisemitism on college campuses. At Stanford University, an Arab Muslim student was the victim of a hit-and-run, where the perpetrator shouted vulgar and racist remarks during his attack. At Cornell University, a student posted violent threats online against the Jewish community, subsequently leading to his arrest. 

“In the face of these challenges, it is essential that we stand together as a nation against discrimination, xenophobia, and bigotry. Hate has no place in America, and our educational institutions play a pivotal role in ensuring that,” the senators continued. “We look forward to your continued dedication to this important issue. We are hopeful that, together, we can create a safer environment for students at our colleges and universities.”

In the letter, the senators specifically call on the DOE to:

  • expand the Antisemitism Awareness Campaign,
  • craft an Islamophobia Awareness Campaign,
  • conduct additional outreach to Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab student communities, and
  • provide resources to colleges and universities from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long been vocal advocates against Islamophobia and antisemitism. Earlier this week, they also sent a letter to the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Special Counsel requesting guidance on the self-expression rights of federal workers as related to the conflict and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

A copy of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Secretary Cardona:

We write to express our concern about the alarming rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the United States following the recent violence in Israel and Gaza. These events have had a profound impact on our college and university campuses, where students of all backgrounds come together to learn and engage.

The United States prides itself on being a nation that values diversity, inclusion, and religious freedom. Unfortunately, hate-fueled incidents targeting Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab students on our college campuses have shown that we still have much work to do to uphold these values. Incidents such as hateful rhetoric, harassment, vandalism, and threats have been reported, creating an environment of fear and vulnerability for students, many of whom have deep and personal connections to the region and the ongoing conflict.

At Stanford University, an Arab Muslim student was the victim of a hit-and-run, where the perpetrator shouted vulgar and racist remarks during his attack. At Cornell University, a student posted violent threats online against the Jewish community, subsequently leading to his arrest. Sadly, these are just a few of the startling incidents reported across the country, and we must do all we can to prevent it from growing.

We want to commend the Department of Education for the creation of the Antisemitism Awareness Campaign, which lays out a set of initiatives to ensure that all students, including Jewish students, are able to attend school free from discrimination. Recent events have highlighted the urgency and importance of continuing and expanding this campaign, which we urge you to do.  

Similarly, in following the Administration’s recent announcement to establish the first-ever National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia, we urge you to build upon that and create an Islamophobia Awareness Campaign for educational institutions. Through this effort, it is critical to acknowledge that Islamophobia also hurts those who are not of the Muslim faith. Individuals perceived to be Muslim, such as members of the Christian Arab and Sikh community, have unfortunately experienced the pain of anti-Muslim hate.

As you work to combat these various acts of hate, we also ask you to expand outreach to Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab student communities. This outreach should aim to address the specific concerns and challenges faced by these communities and provide a platform for support and action. By actively listening and understanding their unique concerns, we can work towards creating an environment where students feel safe, heard, and protected. 

Additionally, we were pleased to learn that the Department of Education recently issued a Dear Colleague reminding schools of their legal obligation to provide all students with a learning environment free from discrimination. This Dear Colleague included an updated discrimination complaint form, which specifies additional protections for students under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We appreciate these efforts and request that you continue to provide comprehensive information and resources from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to colleges and universities. These tools can empower educational institutions to respond effectively to and report discrimination, harassment, bias, and related incidents.

In the face of these challenges, it is essential that we stand together as a nation against discrimination, xenophobia, and bigotry. Hate has no place in America, and our educational institutions play a pivotal role in ensuring that. 

We look forward to your continued dedication to this important issue. We are hopeful that, together, we can create a safer environment for students at our colleges and universities.

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