University of Vermont (UVM) president Suresh Garimella on Friday issued a statement strongly condemning antisemitism and pledging to hold those guilty of it “fully accountable.”
“I want my message to be clear to the entire campus community: antisemitism, in any form, will not be tolerated at UVM,” he said. “Conduct that targets and threatens Jewish individuals or groups, or that unreasonably interferes with their ability to participate in UVM programs and activities, is unacceptable and completely contradictory to our common ground values.”
Garimella’s message comes exactly six weeks after he denied allegations, detailed in a civil rights complaint filed by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jewish on Campus (JOC), that the university mishandled a litany of antisemitic incidents in which anti-Israel activists excluded Jewish students from campus activities and groups. The denial prompted a group of Jewish groups to issue a joint statement criticizing what they said was Garimella’s disregard for the concerns of the Jewish community about declining inclusiveness and safety on campus.
Garimella’s initial response to the allegations “blames the victims,” Brandeis Center president Alyza D. Lewin told The Algemeiner in September.
Vowing to assign the university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) office to focus its resources on supporting Jewish students, he also said that antisemitism affects the entire campus community.
“Like all forms of discrimination and harassment, antisemitism is an affront to us all and leaves our entire community diminished,” he continued. “That is why our response to individual actions is only one aspect of our community’s efforts to resist and reject antisemitism. We must engage at the individual, group, community, and societal level to ensure the causes of such hate and bias as well as the effects are adequately addressed.”
In August, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened a civil rights investigation into UVM based on the Brandeis Center’s and Jewish on Campus’ complaint, which alleged that the Hillel Center was vandalized and Jewish students who embrace Zionism were harassed by a teaching assistant and expelled from student clubs, including UVM Empowering Survivors, a sexual assault awareness group.
Hostility toward Jews, the groups said, became so severe that Jewish students concealed their identities and weighed leaving the university altogether. Ultimately, they continued, such exclusion denied them “equal access to educational opportunities and services,” violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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