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Will campus antisemitism challenge be answered?

College presidents are talking tolerance, but few are taking action.

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FIRST ON FOX: Outbreaks of antisemitism on the rustic campus of Middlebury College in Vermont – the home state of independent socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders – prompted a Jewish organization on Thursday to file a formal complaint with the Department of Education.

“Middlebury College has failed egregiously to provide adequate protection for Jewish students seeking to remedy persistent antisemitic bigotry on campus,” said Yael Lerman, director of the StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice, in a statement. “Middlebury administrators disregarded student allegations, attempted to silence them, neglected to enforce its own rules, and at times were complicit in discriminating against Jewish students. In doing so, the College has violated its obligations under Title VI and must be held accountable.”

StandWithUs (SWU), an organization that seeks to combat rising antisemitism on American college campuses, said in a statement, “Jewish students at Middlebury College, who reported to the administration concerns about a pervasively hostile campus climate for Jews since October 7, 2023, have been met with total indifference and worse.”

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates that all students be provided a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, according to a November 7, 2023, Department of Education letter.


Filed complaint to DOE

A view of Middlebury College and a picture from the complaint shows “some of the signs with anti-Zionist and antisemitic messages that were posted in clear violation of Middlebury’s rules,” according to the complaint filed with the DOE. (Getty/Evidence in filing from StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice )

“I want this Title VI lawsuit to be a wake-up call for Middlebury administrators,” a recent Jewish graduate of Middlebury College told Fox News Digital. “They have played an active role in creating an environment where anyone who does not subscribe to a limited set of ideologies is vilified, especially students who support Israel. I hope this Title VI lawsuit pushes the college to take actionable steps to improve the hostile environment and stop their hypocritical treatment of Jewish students.”

According to Middlebury’s website, the cost for the college year 2023-2024 totals $83,880 before financial aid or scholarships are added.

Fox News Digital spoke to students at Middlebury who wished to remain anonymous because they fear Middlebury’s administration will retaliate against students who blow the whistle on antisemitic rhetoric and behavior.

Middlebury College in Vermonth

Middlebury College (Toby Talbot/AP)

A Middlebury student told Fox News Digital that Middlebury’s management “claim active calls for genocide of the Jewish state are protective speech on the Middlebury College [campus]. They asked us to not use Israeli flags at the vigil for Oct. 7 because it would be controversial.”


According to SWU, “Middlebury administrators exhibited differential and discriminatory treatment to Jewish students planning a vigil to honor the victims of Hamas’s October 7th massacre as compared to students in the Muslim Student Association (MSA) planning a vigil for Gaza at a later date. Administrators told Jewish students not to have a police presence, citing concerns about upsetting other students. They pushed Jewish students to have a single public safety officer attend and said that the officer must be out of uniform and out of sight. Jewish students were told to hide references to Israel from the vigil and to remove the word ‘Jewish’ from all literature affiliated with the event.”

Middlebury College

The SWU complaint shows what it says is a sign on a resident assistant’s door with the antisemitic slogan calling for genocide against Jews; it also says the resident assistant faced no disciplinary action and the Jewish student who reported it faces retaliation. (StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice)

Derek Doucet, Middlebury’s associate vice president and dean of students, sought to alter the Jewish vigil to avoid a focus on Jewish and Israeli victims, terming the memorial a “Vigil for Lives Lost,” per SWU. Fox News Digital reached out to Doucet via email and left a message on his voicemail.

SWU added that “there is no indication that the Muslim Student Association faced any such restrictions. MSA’s event, called ‘Vigil for Palestine,’ specifically focused on those killed in Gaza.”


Pro-Palestine student demonstrators in NYC

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators protest outside Columbia University in New York City on Feb. 2, 2024. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/VIEWpress)

When asked about the allegations of antisemitism leveled against Middlebury College, Julia Ferrante, a spokesperson for the college, told Fox News Digital, “We have not received notice from the Office of Civil Rights of a potential complaint, so [we] are unable to provide further information at this time.”

When asked if calls for the genocide of the world’s largest Jewish community in Israel and Jews is a violation of Middlebury College’s policies, Ferrante declined to comment. Ferrante also refused to say if Middlebury College considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

“They have been very weak in their response and very unsupportive. I was shocked about the response to the events that have gone on, their lack of moral clarity,” said the Middlebury student about the college’s administration.

The SWU complaint alleges that Middlebury College refused to recognize the Jewish Chabad organization on campus.

The student said, “When we tried to create a Chabad organization, they said you did not give the Middlebury Hillel a chance.” According to the student, the pressure to limit the choice to one Jewish organization on campus contradicts the freedom of  religion offered to other faiths on campus. “There are multiple Christian organizations,” the student said to emphasize the importance of numerous options.


Hamas terrorists in Gaza

Palestinian Hamas terrorists are shown in Gaza City. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images/File)

SWU said, “Students have been told in the rejection notice that there is no need for two Jewish groups on campus, despite their being numerous Christian, Asian, and other ethnic-based student organizations. According to student reports, even Middlebury Hillel contributes to the pervasively hostile climate for Jews on campus. At least one student Hillel board member allegedly is also an active member of Students for Justice in Palestine.”

Fox News Digital sent press queries to Hillel Middlebury.

Rabbi Binyamin Murray from Chabad of Middlebury told Fox News Digital, “We’re obviously very familiar with the experiences and feelings of Jewish students here at Middlebury. We have been serving Jewish students and faculty at Middlebury since 2017. We’re proud to see Jewish students stand up for what is right. No students should be hampered from participating in Jewish life, nor should they face hostility for who they are.”

He added, “The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught the concrete way to combat antisemitism is through Jewish pride. Chabad at Middlebury will continue to foster a warm and welcoming environment where all students can celebrate Jewish life proudly.”

Some other examples of alleged anti-Jewish behavior cited by SWU involve the Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) Oct. 12, 2023, Day of Resistance, during which “SJP intimidated students in a Middlebury dining hall and blocked the doors to it. Despite receiving reports of this harassment and false imprisonment, Middlebury’s administration did not enforce its own policies barring behavior that impedes another student’s ability to communicate or move freely and offered no alternative support to the impacted students.”


People marching in support of Palestinians

People march in support of Palestinians in New York on Oct. 8, 2023. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)

The SWU complaint accuses Michelle McCauley, the provost of Middlebury College, of seeking to block a “student’s attempt to hold the administration accountable for failing to address antisemitism.” Fox News Digital’s email and telephone queries to McCauley were not immediately answered.

Middlebury College receives federal funding and is required to combat anti-Jewish hatred on its campus, according to SWU.

A Jewish student complained about an allegedly antisemitic slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” posted on a dormitory door. SWU wrote, “A Jewish student who resided on that floor reported it directly to President Patton with a photo of the sign, which he noted also had a slogan in Arabic that translated as ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be Arab.’ Rather than investigate this incident as a possible violation of Middlebury’s policies, administrators compared it to an ‘all lives matter’ sign taken out of context. Then, in a perverse twist, the university informed the Jewish student that they were instituting disciplinary proceedings against the Jewish student, ostensibly for reporting it.”

SWU listed four demands in its statement: “Reverse and cease all further punitive and retaliatory measures against the Jewish student who reported antisemitic calls for genocide posted by a resident assistant; immediately recognize Chabad formally as a student organization; fully investigate all incidents of antisemitic behavior described for violations of university policies; adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) working definition of antisemitism.”


Middlebury College’s management declined to answer if it will comply with SWU’s demands.

The Middlebury student said, “I completely agree with the demands. The administration is spineless, and they are inconsistent with their definitions of protected speech.”

Benjamin Weinthal reports on Israel, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Europe. You can follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

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