Federal government reopens investigation into possible discrimination of Jewish community at Rutgers
Rutgers is under investigation by the federal government after the U.S. Department of Education reopened a 2011 case that suggests it permitted a hostile environment for Jewish students.
The seven-year-old case was originally closed by former President Barack Obama's administration in 2014, but is being reopened by Kenneth L. Marcus, the new head of the Office for Civil Rights, according to the New York Times.
The case was reopened because it is believed that evidence was previously ignored.
The decision by Marcus marks a policy change in how the department investigates instances of discrimination against Jewish students, according to Politico.
The shift defines Judaism as not only a religion but an ethnic origin, according to The New York Times.
In a letter to the the Zionist Organization of America, Marcus said he would vacate the 2014 decision and re-examine the group’s cause as possible discrimination against an ethnic group, according to The New York Times.
Investigators will try to determine “whether a hostile environment on the basis of national origin or race existed at the University for students of actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnic characteristics,” Marcus wrote in the letter, according to Politico.
The initial complaint was filed in April 2011, during a time when Rutgers was trying to address brewing tensions over the B.D.S. movement, which advocates boycotting, divesting from and sanctioning Israel, which was a controversial topic on college campuses at the time, according to The New York Times.
Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said the Office for Civil RIghts does not have control over religious discrimination, but does enforce civil right laws, such as prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin, according to The New York Times.
“(Secretary Betsy DeVos) has made clear that O.C.R. will look at the specific facts of each case and make determinations accordingly,” Hill said. “The facts in this case, many of which were disregarded by the previous administration, are troubling.”
University spokesperson Dory Devlin said there is no place for anti-Semitism or any form of religious intolerance at Rutgers, in an email to The Daily Targum.
"Although we have yet to receive any notification from Secretary DeVos or the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that they are reopening an investigation into the behavior of an outside group that rented a Rutgers facility in 2011, we will, of course, cooperate fully with the Department," she said.