Education Dept. reaches resolutions with CUNY, University of Michigan over campus discrimination

The Education Department announced resolutions to complaints of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim complaints at CUNY and the University of Michigan. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

June 18 (UPI) -- The Education Department announced on Monday that it has reached resolutions with the University of Michigan and City University of New York after charging they did not do enough to respond to and investigate discrimination complaints on campus.

The resolutions are the first issued by the department's Office of Civil Rights following campus reactions to the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and the ensuing Gaza war.

"Hate has no place on our college campuses -- ever," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. "Sadly, we have witnessed a series of deeply concerning incidents in recent months. There's no question that this is a challenging moment for school communities across the country. The recent commitments made by the University of Michigan and CUNY mark a positive step forward."

The OCR reviewed 75 complaints regarding the University of Michigan from the 2022-2023 school year to February and said the University of Michigan received allegations from both Jewish students and those of Muslim ancestry but did not take adequate steps to ensure a non-hostile environment. Many were closed without an investigation, the report said.

It cited one incident in which a student shouted "Nazi liberation" while on campus but records did not indicate the university took any action other than forwarding the reports to the public affairs office.

"OCR found no evidence that the university complied with its Title VI requirements to assess whether incidents individually or cumulatively created a hostile environment for students, faculty, or staff, and if so, to take steps reasonably calculated to end the hostile environment, remedy its effects and prevent its recurrence," the report said.

"The OCR is concerned that the university appears not to have taken steps to assess whether incidents about which it had notice individually or cumulatively created a hostile environment for students, faculty or staff," the report said.

The report on the CUNY said it failed to respond to anti-Semitism and discrimination against students of Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and South Asian ancestry in a timely manner as it investigated complaints dating back to 2020.

"[The] OCR identified compliance concerns that specific CUNY colleges appear not to have conducted adequate investigations in response to reports of alleged harassment based on national origin/shared ancestry," .

The report said CUNY in some circumstances had not "considered whether the alleged conduct subjected students to possible hostile environments at all."

The report included Hunter College, CUNY School of Law, Brooklyn College, Queens College and Baruch College.

In an incident at Hunter College, the investigation found Jewish students were told to stay quiet as students and faculty disrupted class sessions to call for the decolonization of Palestinian territory.

"Several students expressed that the disruption made them fearful and at least one student left class early," the report said.

In order to avoid the risk of losing federal funding, the universities were required to agree to the resolutions, which included committing to resolve neglected cases, increase reporting and revise training on discrimination.

"The recent commitments made by the University of Michigan and CUNY mark a positive forward. The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights continues to hold schools accountable for compliance with civil rights standards, including by investigating allegations of discrimination or harassment based on Jewish ancestry and shared Palestinian or Muslin ancestry," Cardona said.