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Education Department investigates Harvard over antisemitism claims on campus

The department is also investigating a half-dozen colleges and universities and a local school district for alleged antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents.
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The U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into Harvard University over claims of antisemitism on campus, according to the federal agency’s website.

The department — which announced earlier this month a separate investigation into a half-dozen U.S. colleges and universities and a local school district for alleged antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents — opened the investigation into Harvard on Tuesday.

The investigation stems from a complaint that alleged the Ivy League school discriminated against Jewish and Israeli students when it failed to respond to alleged incidents of harassment last month, according to a letter from the department seen by The Boston Globe.

An Education Department spokesperson confirmed the investigation but said the Office for Civil Rights does not discuss the details of its current investigations. Harvard did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Harvard President Claudine Gay addressed antisemitism on campus in a Nov. 9 letter to the community. She said an Antisemitism Advisory Group was helping school leaders examine "how antisemitism manifests within our community" and craft "a plan that addresses its complex history, including acknowledging this specific form of prejudice in Harvard’s past, in a comprehensive manner," the letter stated.

There are also plans to implement training for students, faculty and staff, and increase education around antisemitism and Jewish history.

"As President, I affirm our commitment to protecting all members of our community from harassment and marginalization, and our commitment to meeting antisemitism head-on, with the determination it demands," Gay said. "Let me reiterate what I and other Harvard leaders have said previously: Antisemitism has no place at Harvard."

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, numerous incidents have been reported at U.S. schools, with some resulting in arrests.

Federal prosecutors in the Northern District of New York charged Cornell University student Patrick Dai after he allegedly made violent threats against Jewish students in an online forum. Officials at the Ithaca, New York, school said that the threats specifically named the school’s Center for Jewish Living. Dai has not entered a plea, court records show.

At the University of Pennsylvania, the FBI was alerted after some staff members received “vile, disturbing antisemitic emails that threatened violence against members of our Jewish community.”

Harvard and other schools have also recently come under fire for their handling of student protests on campus. Gay, along with University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth, have been called to testify before a congressional committee on their handling of the protests, according to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Committee Chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-Va., said college administrators have "largely stood by, allowing horrific rhetoric to fester and grow" when they should be fostering and upholding "a safe learning environment for their students and staff."

"Now is not a time for indecision or milquetoast statements. By holding this hearing, we are shining the spotlight on these campus leaders and demanding they take the appropriate action to stand strong against antisemitism," Foxx said in a statement.

The committee hearing is set for Tuesday.