Jewish students at UIUC have faced ‘unrelenting campaign of antisemitic harassment,’ complaint alleges

Champaign, IL
- Jewish students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have endured “an unrelenting campaign of antisemitic harassment,” according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Those students and others supportive of Israel “have been subjected to an alarming increase in antisemitism and anti-Zionism over the past five years,” according to a statement issued Friday by the Louis B. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which helped prepare the complaint.

Over that period, multiple swastikas have allegedly been scrawled across the campus; menorahs and mezuzahs have allegedly been vandalized; and windows of Jewish fraternities have allegedly been “smashed with bricks,” according to the statement. What’s more, pro-Palestine students have also allegedly glorified members of terrorist organizations, assailed Jewish students and their allies with epithets like “Nazi” and “white supremacist” and turned university diversity training “into anti-Israel indoctrination.”

The complaint alleges that university administrators have failed to provide “a discrimination-free academic setting” despite being notified of the “developing hostile environment.” The statement also claims that some university employees have “been complicit” in fostering that environment.

Previous attempts by the university to address the alleged antisemitism “have done little to ameliorate the hostile environment on campus,” according to the statement. And while the complaint was only recently made public, the university was reportedly given seven months to respond to the allegations after it was filed.

“In the face of continuous stall tactics and almost no action from the university, we decided to publicize our efforts,” said Alyza D. Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center. “We hope public awareness of this dire situation will prompt the university to finally acknowledge and address the egregious antisemitic harassment it has swept under the rug for far too long.”

University spokespeople didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Ian Katsnelson, a biology and political science major, said he has personally experienced “shocking examples of antisemitism firsthand.”

“I’ve been called a genocide supporter, a white supremacist, and harassed; all for being publicly Jewish. And all of this in front of the administration — who did nothing,” Katsnelson said in a statement. “Second, as a student, I’ve seen the effect that the hostility has on my friends — they’re afraid to wear Jewish stars, Hebrew writing, or even Jewish Greek letters.

“This is my third year at U of I and I can tell you … it’s exhausting.”