US agency reaches resolution with Brown University over civil rights compliance News
US agency reaches resolution with Brown University over civil rights compliance

The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced Monday a resolution agreement with Brown University to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for alleged harassment of students with Jewish, Palestinian, Arab, and or/Muslim ancestry.

Brown University named four key priorities under which it would revise policies and procedures to better address the alleged harassment on the university campus:

  1. Protecting the safety of its community, in particular supporting the needs and safety of its students, faculty, and staff who are Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim, Jewish, have ties to the region or are feeling impacted by current events.
  2. Fostering welcoming, open, and respectful learning and living environments free of discrimination and harassment.
  3. Providing care and empathy to affected members of the Brown community.
  4. Taking the strongest possible stance against any form of discrimination and harassment, including, but not limited to, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hate, or other unlawful discrimination based on actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics or citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identity.

The university agreed to conduct a review of reported ancestry discrimination and the university’s corresponding response from 2023-2025, in addition to taking any necessary remedial action. They also agreed to revise policies and procedures for all university offices “including with respect to protests and demonstrations.” Other agreed actions included the maintenance of records regarding reports of discrimination, anti-discrimination training, and the creation of an action plan based on the results of the university’s review.

The announcement cited “75 reports of alleged antisemitic, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Muslim harassment against students from October 2023 through late March 2024.” Some of the reports included instances of the use of racial epithets, discrimination against certain ethnic groups from student-led demonstrations, and other incessant verbal abuse based on a student’s ethnic background. The Civil Rights Office faulted Brown University for not doing enough to address the issues and for failing to follow up on or investigate harassment issues when complainants refused to identify themselves or cooperate with the university.

US university campuses have been rocked with student protests and counter-protests over the conflict in Gaza since the war broke out last year while Amnesty International has condemned universities’ responses to protests as a wrongful suppression of the right to assembly. Hate speech worldwide has risen since October of last year amid antisemitic incidents across the globe. In November of last year, three Palestinian-American students were shot by a Vermont man in a potential hate crime. Earlier this month New York City’s NYU settled a lawsuit from Jewish students alleging antisemitism. The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported the highest number of complaints in the group’s history as anti-Muslim incidents surged in the US.