Field Notes - Addressing Antisemitism on College Campuses: Challenges, Hearings, and Recommendations

November 27, 2023
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • public policy
Photograph of an open microphone.

By Tara Kent, Director, Office of the Registrar, AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts

"Field Notes" is a regular Connect column covering practical and philosophical issues facing admissions and registrar professionals. The columns are authored by various AACRAO members. If you have an idea for a column and would like to contribute, please send an email to the editor at

Colleges and universities nationwide are grappling with challenges, including the struggle to maintain and increase enrollment, while also contending with a rising influx of antisemitism on campus. Students are confronted with the distressing reality of hate-based attacks, which carry both mental and physical repercussions, disrupting their academic and social pursuits. Institutions of higher education are grappling with the search for effective solutions and practical strategies to confront the unrest on their campuses. Considering the persistent increase in antisemitic incidents on college campuses, a hearing titled "Confronting the Scourge of Antisemitism on Campus" was conducted by the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development on November 14, 2023. The Subcommittee is actively pursuing methods to hold institutions accountable for potential increases in campus antisemitism. Chairman Owens emphasized that elements like the campus offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion might inadvertently exacerbate the issue. While the threat of Title VI violations underscores the importance of managing and preventing antisemitism, witnesses provided additional insights into effectively holding institutions accountable for addressing and preventing antisemitism on campus.


The Committee extended invitations to four witnesses to testify on the issue of antisemitism in college settings. While one of the witnesses is a university student, none of the four witnesses held a position as an administrator at a college or university. The subsequent persons acted as witnesses: Rabbi Moshe Hauer, Executive Vice President of Orthodox Union; Mr. Kenneth Marcus, Esq., Founder and Chairman, Brandeis Center; Stacy Burdett, Independent Consultant in Antisemitism Prevention and Response; and Ms. Sahar Tartak, a Student at Yale University.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Ranking member Bobby Scott expressed his concern about the rise of antisemitism on college campuses. He made note that colleges and universities are not only morally bound to prevent instances of discrimination related to race, color, or national origin within their campus community, but they are also legally mandated by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to actively prevent the emergence of such forms of discrimination on their premises. As a federal agency that provides grants and financial assistance to higher education institutions, the Department of Education must enforce Title VI. Engaging in antisemitism constitutes a Title VI violation, and colleges that tolerate such behavior may face the risk of losing federal funding (Weissman, S. 2020).

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

During the hearing, Chairman Burgess Owens strongly opposed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) offices, going so far as to label DEI as fraudulent. In his opening statement, Rep. Owens emphasized his belief that DEI does not serve as a beneficial resource for the Jewish community, citing a Heritage Foundation study that revealed 96% of tweets from campus DEI personnel were critical of Israel or explicitly antisemitic. During the witness questioning, Chairman Owens sought insights from Ms. Tartak, a Yale student, who confirmed feeling unsupported and excluded by DEI initiatives. In contrast to Chairman Owens and Ms. Tartak's criticisms of DEI, Ms. Burdett saw it as an essential component that should be enhanced through DEI education. She proposed making the offices more inclusive for the Jewish community rather than endorsing the removal of campus DEI offices.

Antisemitism's Campus Impact

The witnesses highlighted a disturbing pattern of antisemitic behavior on campus, with students facing hate messages, intimidation, and even physical assaults. Rabbi Hauer pointed out that these actions were at times tolerated and actively encouraged by some university administrators. The pervasive fear for physical safety expressed by Mr. Marcus, coupled with reports of assaults and threats, paints a troubling picture. Ms. Burdett added that this atmosphere hampers students' ability to focus on learning and disrupts their sleep, impacting mental and physical health. Ms. Tartak further emphasized the widespread fear and violence, sharing a personal experience that reflects the profoundly unsettling environment on campus.


Rabbi Hauer called on Congress to act by enforcing Title VI. Mr. Marcus urged Congress to be proactive instead of reactive, conducting self-directed investigations and compliance reviews. Furthermore, he requested that the DOE promptly respond to pending complaints of antisemitism. Ms. Burdett expressed that she has seen universities act and provided examples of institutions creating antisemitic task forces, increasing security, and requiring student identification cards for campus access. In addition, she noted that she has witnessed campus public safety working closely with law enforcement, collaborating on information about threats and protests. However, she recommended that Congress stand behind the US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, expand the budget so more investigators can be hired, and prioritize prevention strategies in addition to building civil unity against antisemitism. Ms. Tartak proposed defunding and derecognition for student groups endorsing violence while also advocating the potential loss of federal funding for universities that do not adhere to Title VI. She also supports maintaining DEI standards, emphasizing the importance of ensuring accountability for protecting all minority groups.


While it's evident that political motives often play a role in these hearings, there is optimism that a sincere concern and shared objective exist. This shared objective goes beyond simply safeguarding students and staff in higher education from antisemitism; it encompasses educating colleges and universities about effective strategies to counter harmful attacks recognizing the paramount importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff. The goal for colleges and universities is to ensure the security of students while honoring the educational commitments outlined in the institutions' mission statements. Although some colleges and universities may aim to uphold freedom of speech while ensuring a secure learning environment, it seems that the Subcommittee shares a similar goal, as indicated by the chairman's statement:

With respect to all free speech, this Committee fully supports students' right to political expression. What we do not and will never support is terrorism and threats of violence. And we can no longer support the use of taxpayer dollars to cultivate, nourish, and grow hate on our campuses


AACRAO's bi-weekly professional development e-newsletter is open to members and non-members alike.