a low cement wall with the words "University of California, Davis" written on it
A sign on the campus of UC Davis. (Photo/Flickr-Christian Ostrosky CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

UC Davis joins Harvard and Penn on list of schools facing federal civil rights investigations

(JTA) – UC Davis and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both of which have recently experienced widely publicized episodes of conflict around Israel, are among six new institutions facing U.S. Department of Education investigations.

The department has indicated it is taking a newly aggressive approach to addressing it and Islamophobia on campus since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war and is announcing new investigations at a rapid clip, dramatically increasing the pace of civil rights inquiries that it opens.

All of the investigations relate to allegations of mistreatment owing to “shared ancestry,” but the department does not publicly reveal the incidents or complaints that cause it to open inquiries. None of the latest targets would comment on their investigations’ nature, and many said they were not told why they were being investigated.

Still, it is almost certain that at least some of the investigations are related to antisemitism.

None of the schools that responded to requests for comment would say whether their investigations were related to antisemitism.

A spokesperson for UIC said the university “strives to be a place where everyone feels welcome and where all people – no matter what color, race, ancestry, age, sex, interests, sexual orientation including gender identity, religion, disability, national origin, or marital status – can share perspectives and viewpoints to learn from one another,” but would not comment on its Title VI investigation.

A Drexel spokesperson similarly said, “Drexel does not tolerate acts of bias, discrimination and harassment.” On Oct. 11 the president of Drexel said the university was investigating a suspected case of arson outside a Jewish student’s dormitory.

A spokesperson for Springfield Public Schools District 186 told JTA their investigation was related to a complaint “filed by a parent on behalf of their child” but would not say what it was related to. Last year a high school student in the district faced hate crime charges in connection with antisemitic graffiti found at the school.

A spokesperson for Chandler Unified Schools told JTA it was “unable to provide details” about their investigation. The school district experienced an antisemitism controversy in 2021 when a woman at a school board meeting accused “the Jews” of developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Opening an investigation does not mean the Department of Education believes the complaint has merit, only that it falls under the department’s purview.

Andrew Lapin

Andrew Lapin is the Managing Editor for Local News at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.