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Title VI Violation?

A source passed on this complaint (doc):

I am writing to file a complaint against Williams College for discrimination against Jewish students in violation of Title VI and related Department of Education regulations.

My allegations, supported by an account in the Williams College student newspaper, available here, https://williamsrecord.com/2019/05/cc-rejects-williams-initiative-for-israel/ are as follows:

Williams College is an institution of higher education that receives federal funds, and is subject to Title VI.

Williams College has a student government known as the College Council (hereinafter, CC).

As an official arm of the college, actions by the CC are covered by Title VI.

And so on.

1) Any lawyers prepared to opine?

2) Am I correct that Ken Marcus ’88, the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, is the official to which this complaint will ultimately flow? If so, is that connection good or bad for Williams?

It might be good in that Ken is well-disposed toward Williams and won’t want to see us embarrassed. If you agree with CC’s decision, it might be bad because Ken is someone who is highly unlikely to be sympathetic to CC.

This complaint might be very good if you are Maud Mandel. You now have the perfect excuse! Just say, “On advice of counsel, and with respect to the Title VI complaint, Williams has decided to remove student organization recognition authority from College Council. All student groups will, henceforth, be recognized, or not, by Williams itself.” Problem solved!

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13 Comments To "Title VI Violation?"

#1 Comment By abl On May 7, 2019 @ 9:39 pm

1. Is CC an “official arm of the college?” That doesn’t sound correct. From quickly skimming the CC constitution, that doesn’t look correct either: https://sites.williams.edu/college-council/files/2015/11/CC-Constitution-2016-Format.pdf.

2. Didn’t Maud literally say that Williams College was recognizing WIFI as an official group? Needless to say, if the core of your Title VI argument is that an organization was denied official recognition based on discriminatory reasons, it’s probably important that the organization actually be denied official recognition.

3. Claims of antisemitism here are made more challenging given that one of the largest, best-funded, and most consistently thriving student organizations at Williams is the Williams College Jewish Association. WCJA obviously is not proof positive of the lack of antisemitism in WIFI’s denial; but it muddies the narrative.

4. I am personally very sympathetic to claims of implicit bias, including regarding anti-semitism specifically. David Bernstein’s (the complainant’s) argument is essentially one of implicit bias: CC’s perspective on the Israel-Palestine debate is colored by anti-semitism, as evidenced by, among other things, individual member’s exaggerated characterization of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and dog-whistle uses of terminologies (“genocide, a charge . . . [that] is resonant of blood libel”). And what else, Bernstein implies, would explain this disparate treatment?

Do the right-leaning commentators here find this persuasive? Can we agree that implicit bias is a thing?

#2 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On May 7, 2019 @ 10:05 pm

> Do the right-leaning commentators here find this persuasive?

No.

> Can we agree that implicit bias is a thing?

Not really. That is, you think “implicit bias” explains X amount of the things we see in the world. I think it explains X/10,000. That is, it is real and does matter. But it matters much less than you (probably) think.

The closely related implicit association test is as well.

#3 Comment By abl On May 7, 2019 @ 10:14 pm

DDF — recognizing that implicit bias is real and agreeing on the extent of its effects are two very different things. (I also don’t think you have any real understanding of what [X] things I believe implicit bias may explain, as I’ve never expressed my opinions on that here.)

Regardless, I take it from your above comment that you don’t think that the WIFI denial is about antisemitism?

#4 Comment By Williamstown Resident On May 8, 2019 @ 12:07 am

Is this a Title 6 (VI) issue or a Title 9 (IX) issue? I’m not familiar with Title VI but Title IX issues make headlines all of the time. What is Title VI?

#5 Comment By Williamstown Resident On May 8, 2019 @ 12:10 am

Sorry, should’ve clicked the link.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d – 2000d7, and its implementing regulations, 28 C.F.R. § 42.401 et seq., govern DOJ’s compliance and enforcement authority. These provisions provide that no recipient or other person shall intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual because he/she has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing conducted under DOJ’s jurisdiction, or has asserted rights protected by statutes DOJ enforces.

#6 Comment By Title VI Complaint On May 8, 2019 @ 12:45 am

Williamstown Resident — I think a better explanation of Title VI is that it applies when a “program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” has discriminated “on the ground of race, color, national origin, handicap, religion, or sex.” The bit you’ve cited protects folks from retaliation for making Title VI complaints, which isn’t at issue here.

https://www.justice.gov/crt/case-document/file/934826/download

#7 Comment By ’11 On May 8, 2019 @ 1:34 am

What makes you think Kenneth Marcus would be unsympathetic towards Palestinians?

#8 Comment By Nishant On May 8, 2019 @ 5:49 am

Making the administration responsible for student body recognition is absurd and supplants one problem with a likely much larger one. Elected student representative recognize groups as they receive funding from the Student Activity Charges. The issue here isn’t the process (which is fine); it is the fact that CC violated its own by-laws and constitution.

This should give the administration the opportunity to force them to reconsider.

#9 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On May 8, 2019 @ 7:31 am

The Complainant here – David Bernstein – lives less than a mile from me. Is he an alum?

#10 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On May 8, 2019 @ 9:04 am

No.

#11 Comment By Current Student On May 8, 2019 @ 9:49 am

abl,

To your second point–No. Only CC has that power. Maud simply said that the administration would approach WIFI as a student group, because that’s what it is, regardless of its actual status. It has still officially been denied recognition, and the administration has not changed that. Perhaps it’s better to say WIFI is being approached as a “collective of students” by the administration, in many ways similar to the functioning status of CARE Now, who meets with Maud quite regularly.

#12 Comment By abl On May 8, 2019 @ 2:45 pm

Thanks, Current Student. Along those lines, are all student groups with funding recognized by CC? Is WCJA, for example? (The list seems to be limited to current students.)

#13 Comment By Current Student On May 8, 2019 @ 4:47 pm

Funding? What do you mean by funding? There’s a lot of money floating around this college, and not all of it comes from the Student Activities Tax (the ~$200 per student per year that forms the basis of CC’s ~$500,000 budget). Funding also comes from departments and various alumni-derived funds endowed at the college. Any person can access this second source of funds, no special status needed (as long as certain fund-specific stipulations are met, of course). CC actually wants RSOs to use these funds before asking them for money, especially when inviting speakers. At face value, then, we come up with a situation where CC money only goes to RSOs, and the other funding sources go to RSOs and anybody else who wants to do something. As a general rule, non-CC money has a lot more topic-specific strings attached to it (i.e. departments like Biology aren’t spending their money on non-Biology speakers).

That being said, that’s not exactly how CC works. Anybody at the college–an individual or non-RSO group (there are not many of these on campus–no specific numbers, unfortunately, and many tend to be RSOs that people forgot to renew the status for, see WCJA)–can request money from CC, with little to no functional difference. I’d say that non-RSO funding requests generally come under much more scrutiny because there’s less accountability with an individual than a group CC can punish, but still generally get approved.

WCJA–according to the official RSO list–is a RSO. That being said, its information is super old and I doubt its status has been renewed.

What, then, are the practical ramifications of CC’s decision, if it really doesn’t do anything to WIFI’s funding? Well, it’s mostly symbolic, and it sends a strong message indeed–RSOs are simply not denied ever, which is why its been a decade since the last time. I don’t want to devalue the symbolic part of this. More concretely, it really does tell WIFI that CC is not open to funding them either–the process may officially be open to WIFI members, but it isn’t really.

Long answer today, follow-up questions welcome!