Lawmakers to introduce bipartisan legislation for antisemitism monitor in universities

A new bipartisan proposal is on the horizon in Congress that aims to enable the Department of Education to establish an observer for antisemitism at colleges and universities that benefit from federal financial support.

This action arises in the midst of a series of Pro-Palestinian demonstrations taking place on college campuses nationwide, with proponents of the bill emphasizing the necessity of an antisemitism observer to safeguard Jewish students from bias. Institutions would be mandated to adhere to the observer’s directives, which would be made public, or risk losing federal funding.

Representative Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., conveyed in a statement on Friday: “My team and I have engaged with numerous Jewish students from various campus settings in the United States who feel extremely threatened due solely to their religious and ethnic background. This constitutes a clear violation of Title VI, and the federal authorities must prevent this from continuing without oversight.”

The proposal, named the COLUMBIA Act (College Oversight and Legal Updates Mandating Bias Investigations and Accountability Act), would authorize the education secretary to designate an observer tasked with “carefully assessing the strides taken by a college or university to combat antisemitism on their campus and issuing policy recommendations to relevant authorities as necessary.”

Torres announced his intention to co-sponsor the bill alongside Representative Mike Lawler, R-N.Y.

Recent data reveals a rise in cases of both antisemitic discrimination and Islamophobic discrimination due to the Israel-Hamas conflict. The Department of Education has initiated several probes into discrimination allegations of both types at educational institutions in the U.S., as reported by Reuters in November.

The Council on American Islamic Relations has noted a surge in instances of Islamophobia and hate crimes since the commencement of the war.

“Many individuals within the Muslim community indicated that this time period felt more unbearable than 9/11,” remarked CAIR staff attorney Zanah Ghalawanji earlier in the month.

What’s the current situation at Columbia University and other campuses nationwide?

Disruption emerged at Columbia University in New York City in the wake of University President Nemat Shafik’s address in Washington concerning the strategies the university plans to adopt to confront antisemitism on campus.

Following her testimony, pro-Palestinian students initiated a protest on April 17 at Columbia University by setting up tents on campus grounds in a demonstration called “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.”

Their demands included severing ties with Israel during the ongoing conflict.

“Our demands include divestment and an end to the university’s involvement in genocide,” a post from Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine on X, formerly Twitter, declared.

Similar protests have spread to the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Emory University in Atlanta, and other educational institutions.

Law enforcement officials nationwide have apprehended numerous student and faculty demonstrators. Columbia University has suspended several students. Texas Governor Greg Abbott dispatched Texas state troopers to detain protesters at UT-Austin. The University of Southern California has canceled its primary commencement ceremony due to the unrest.

Contributed by: Krystal Nurse


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