a group of protesters shout and pump their fists in the air. there is a palestinian flag. some of them are wearing keffiyehs
Students protest a talk by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at San Francisco State University, April 6, 2016. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

Current and former students sue SFSU over alleged anti-Semitism

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A group of current and former San Francisco State University students and several members of the Bay Area Jewish community today filed a lawsuit in federal district court accusing SFSU of a range of grievances that have affected Bay Area Jews, especially Jewish students at the school.

Wong smiling
S.F. State University President Les Wong

The lawsuit names as defendants university president Leslie Wong and other top administrative officials.

SFSU has a long history of cultivating anti-Semitism and discriminating against Jewish students, according to the lawsuit, which dates the problems as far back as 1968. The plaintiffs catalog dozens of incidents since then, including an incident in which shouting protestors drowned out a talk by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat during his 2016 visit to SFSU.

As a result, the school and its administrators have promoted “… discrimination, and hostile environment, which has been marked by violent threats to the safety of Jewish students on campus,” the lawsuit alleges.

“The University was not aware of the complaint and has not had an opportunity to review or respond to it. We have been working closely with the Jewish community, among other interest groups, to address concerns and improve the campus environment for all students,” SFSU attorney Daniel Ojeda countered in a statement. “Those efforts have been very productive and will continue notwithstanding this lawsuit.”

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council has been critical of the university’s handling of Jewish student complaints. In response to the news of the lawsuit, JCRC executive director Abby Porth said in a statement, “JCRC is not associated with this lawsuit. In the face of University inaction, however, it was not surprising to learn that alienated Jewish students resolved to litigate to ensure a safer climate on campus. The JCRC has been in conversation with the SFSU administration and CSU system about the pervasive nature of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric and activity on campus, and the chilling effect this has on Jewish students’ free speech and personal safety.”

The suit seeks monetary damages, as well as a court order to force the defendants to cease the behavior outlined in the lawsuit.

Attorneys at Winston & Strawn are representing the plaintiffs pro bono. The Lawfare Project, the self-described legal arm of the pro-Israel community, is also participating in the litigation.

The full complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is below.

max cherney
Max A. Cherney

Max A. Cherney is a former J. staff writer.