According to a report by The College Fix, the U.S. Department of Education is now investigating Williams College over charges it violated anti-discrimination law when the College Council refused to approve WIFI, a pro-Israel student group. The complaint against the college was filed by David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, on May 2, 2019.
The full text of Bernstein’s complaint appears after the break. As The College Fix reports:
The College Council voted to deny WIFI recognition as an official student organization during a secretive and controversial meeting April 23.
It was not livestreamed as usual, and speakers were not identified by name in the meeting minutes. An April 9 meeting that was livestreamed had drawn national attention because black student activists went on a profanity-laced rant against white students.
According to The Williams Record, WIFI was the first applicant in more than a decade to be rejected despite meeting all required bylaws.
According to a letter that Bernstein received from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in Boston, he retains “a right to file a private suit in federal court whether or not OCR finds a violation.”
David E. Bernstein, 52, is a law professor at the George Mason University School of Law where he has taught since 1995. He focuses on constitutional history and the admissibility of expert testimony. He is a contributor to the influential conservative legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy. He is a graduate of Yale Law School, where he was a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal. He took a B.A. degree summa cum laude with honors in History from Brandeis University.
- 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.
- The CC has an official process by which to recognize new student groups as official registered student organizations, or RSO.
- In spring 2019 Jewish students at Williams sought official recognition as an RSO by the CC of a group called Williams Initiative for Israel. The stated mission of the group “is to support Israel and the pro-Israel campus community, as well as to educate the College on issues concerning Israel and the Middle East.” The club also planned to hold events, including Jewish cultural events and celebrations of Jewish and Israeli holidays.
- Williams Initiative for Israel complied with all CC bylaws for recognition as an RSO.
- No student organization that had applied for recognition as an RSO and complied with all CC bylaws for recognition had failed to gain RSO status in over a decade.
- The CC recognizes a student group known as Students for Justice in Palestine. The mission of this group is to advocate for the Palestinian cause. It does so primarily by criticizing Israel. Thus, the CC has no policy, formal or informal, against recognizing student groups that take positions on foreign affairs in general, on the Middle East specifically, or on matters related to Israel or the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
- In the courses of debate over recognizing Williams Initiative for Israel, opponents of recognition accused Israel of “genocide,” a charge so facially absurd and contrary to facts that it can only be explained by antisemitism, and is resonant of historical blood libel. It also constitutes antisemitic demonization of Israel, within the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism. Students affiliated with Williams Initiative for Israel suggest an antisemitic undertone other comments made by students opposed to recognition of their organization.
- Williams CC voted on April 23, 2019 13-8 with one abstention against recognizing Williams Initiative for Israel.
- Contrary to usual practice, CC did not to publish a livestream for the April 23 meeting and published meeting minutes without any speaker names in a document accessible only to students and faculty with Williams email.
- 92% of American Jews support Israel, and support for Israel is a bedrock platform of mainstream Jewish organizations, including Hillel that serves Jewish students. Discriminating against a student group organized by Jewish students for the purpose of supporting Israel constitutes discrimination against Jewish students on the basis of ethnicity or race. The antisemitic statements made in the course of the debate, as well as the unusual procedures undertaken, provide evidence of anti-Jewish motive.
- Refusal to recognize Williams Initiative for Israel as a recognized student organization on the same terms as the CC has recognized dozens of other student groups constituted discrimination against Jewish students at Williams on the basis of ethnicity or race. The continued non-recognition of Williams Initiative for Israel constitutes ongoing discrimination against Jewish students on the basis of ethnicity or race.
- I request that the Office of Civil Rights investigate Williams for discrimination against Jewish students on the basis of the above facts.