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Jewish, Israeli students file civil rights complaint against UC Davis

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An international nonprofit filed a federal civil rights complaint Monday on behalf of Jewish, Israeli and Zionist students and stakeholders at UC Davis alleging the university turned a blind eye and failed to protect them from antisemitic harassment.

StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice — a partner with nonprofit StandWithUs that describes itself as supporting Israel and combating antisemitism — said the university has “tacitly” endorsed speech by employees that violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Each incident outlined in the complaint has led to a “toxic climate” culture in which campus members must hide their identities due to fears of physical harm, according to the complaint filed to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Jewish and Israeli students report taking Israel pins off their backpacks, skipping class, and missing sleep for fear that the atmosphere of hostility and selective impunity at UC Davis will lead to physical harm to their persons,” the complaint said.

The Education Department also launched an investigation into UC Davis and nearly 90 other campuses across the nation in December after an “alarming” rise in reports of antisemitism, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab discrimination erupted at schools amid the Israel-Hamas war triggered by the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in southern Israel.

The university, when it receives a complaint of antisemitism or other offensive behavior, “immediately” reaches out to affected people to provide support and resources, Bill Kisliuk, a university spokesman, wrote in an email. The allegations are reviewed under the university’s anti-discrimination policy, he wrote.

“Our top priority is to provide support and guidance to any member of our community who may be impacted by harmful speech or offensive behavior, to ensure that they are not restricted in their participation in UC Davis programs or activities,” Kisliuk wrote.

StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice said it’s asking the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate all antisemitic incidents, require the university to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism and provide training of Jewish identity and antisemitism.

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