The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education has confirmed it will investigate allegations that two former U.C. Berkeley students were subject to a pervasive, hostile environment on campus. Last July, San Francisco attorney Joel Siegal and his New York counterpart Neal Sher filed the complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of national origin, which is forbidden under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A spokesman for the OCR confirmed to j. that the complaint is now under investigation. OCR investigators will next collect information from relevant parties to “make a determination as to whether the university is compliant with the civil rights laws,” according to a DOE letter addressed to Siegal and Sher.
At the heart of the complaint are activities that took place during “Israel Apartheid Week” at U.C. Berkeley, an event that in the past featured mock Israeli checkpoints and students dressed as soldiers, interrogating passersby while wielding toy assault rifles. Sher claimed these actions depicted Jews “using racist anti-Semitic stereotypes.”
The fact that the OCR has launched an investigation does not imply the department has made a determination as to the merits of the complaint. The OCR spokesperson said investigations of this sort typically take up to six months to complete. Should violations be found, the OCR noted in its letter that it “would negotiate a resolution agreement with university to address issues found to be in non-compliance, and once the university signed that, we would monitor and work with them to come into compliance.” — dan pine