a big glass building with students walking through a lawn in front
J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University. (Photo/Wikimedia-Webbi1987)

S.F. State hires new legally mandated Jewish student life coordinator

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San Francisco State University has hired a new Jewish student life coordinator, a position that had been vacant for about 2½ years. The position was mandated by a 2019 settlement reached after two Jewish students alleged discrimination by the university, and weeks before a trial was set to begin.

Danille Hoffer
Danille Hoffer

Danille Hoffer, who started the job this month, is tasked with creating and overseeing what a university newsletter called “culturally responsive programs and services” to support Jewish students on campus.

Sasha Joseph was the first to fill the role when she was hired in June 2019, but she left after just six months, according to university spokesperson Kent Bravo.

According to an SFSU newsletter, the school did a nationwide search to find a replacement.

Ziporah Reich, an attorney with the Jewish civil rights organization Lawfare Project, which filed the 2018 suit that led to the settlement, said the New York–based firm put pressure on the university to fill the empty position.

Reich said S.F. State actually hired Hoffer in October 2021, “but there were issues beyond the university’s control that prevented the coordinator from beginning to work until Aug. 3, 2022,” she said.

Volk v. Board of Trustees, the 2018 lawsuit, alleged discrimination and civil rights violations “sanctioned by high-ranking university officials.” It was filed by attorneys with the Lawfare Project and Chicago-headquartered Winston and Strawn LLP on behalf of the two students, citing a 2017 incident in which SFSU students affiliated with San Francisco Hillel were excluded from “Know Your Rights,” a campus fair designed for marginalized groups.

Filed in state court in San Francisco, the lawsuit followed a similar effort the previous year in federal court that was not successful.

As part of the settlement, SFSU agreed to several ameliorative steps that included creating the student life coordinator position, and it issuing a public statement saying the university would support “educational efforts to promote viewpoint diversity (including but not limited to pro-Israel and Zionist viewpoints)” and that it understood that “for many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity.”

The school also agreed to order independent investigations of all religious discrimination complaints, as well as conduct an external review of campus procedures related to enforcement of anti-discrimination policies and student code of conduct.

Hoffer worked for six months in 2020 as a fellow with the American Jewish Committee and three months in 2019 as an intern for the American Zionist Movement, according to her LinkedIn page.

According to the SFSU CampusMemo, she is a Toronto native who graduated in 2017 from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and went on to obtain a dual master’s degree in public administration and Hebrew and Judaic studies from New York University in 2021. “She studied both academically and religiously in Israel,” the memo added. “In her spare time, she enjoys reading, entertaining, knitting and following the cats of Twitter.”

SFSU’s public relations office declined to make Hoffer available for an interview for this article.

“It is important that there is now a point person to whom Jewish students at SFSU can turn to assist them in dealing with antisemitism they encounter,” said attorney Aaron Stiefel of Arnold & Porter, a Washington, D.C.–based law firm working with the Lawfare Project to ensure SFSU’s compliance with the 2019 settlement. “The coordinator should also be creating programming aimed at countering antisemitism on campus.”

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.