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Education Department announces anti-Semitism investigation into UMN

The announcement comes after a December 2023 complaint alleged anti-Semitism a “pressing problem” in the College of Liberal Arts.
Image by Dean Tan
The front of the Northrop Mall on Nov. 1, 2022.

The U.S. Department of Education (DoE) announced Wednesday it will launch an investigation into complaints of anti-Semitism at the University of Minnesota.

The 99 total ongoing investigations against the University and other schools like Ohio State and Temple universities focus on discrimination based on shared ancestry, which is prevented under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A complaint was filed against the University in December by former regent Michael Hsu and law professor Richard Painter. It alleged the administration did not do enough to condemn anti-Semitism at the University after the Oct. 7, 2023 attacks by Hamas on Israelis.

Faculty from departments within the College of Liberal Arts posted statements after the attacks in solidarity with the people of Palestine, which Hsu said should not have been posted to an official University website.

After submitting their complaint, Hsu said the DoE asked them questions about it over a video call. After a brief waiting period, they were notified the DoE would be proceeding with a formal investigation.

“It is our hope that either before the end of, or after the investigation, the University will agree to stop these statements from being published on the official University websites,” Hsu said.

The initial complaint was filed shortly after congressional testimony of Ivy League presidents prompted a national conversation about anti-Semitism and free speech on college campuses.

During a private Dec. 13, 2023 screening of Hamas’ attack on Israeli citizens by the Jewish Community Relations Council, organizers handed out printed versions of the statement with particular phrases highlighted as examples of anti-Semitism, both at the University but also more broadly.

The University said in an email statement to the Minnesota Daily it will be “fully responsive” to the DoE Office for Civil Rights’ investigation for its full duration. 

“The University stands firmly in support of speech and actions that provide an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from any form of prejudice and intolerance,” the statement reads. “We will continue to work every day to uphold these values while balancing our legal responsibilities to honor free speech.”

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  • SA
    Jan 22, 2024 at 1:32 pm

    This is ridiculous. If they want to tackle antisemitism I’m all for it – this is a liberal university for crying out loud. Everyone will back that. But that’s not what this is about. If this is about protesting against the attacks on Palestine, WE ALL KNOW that is not antisemitism. It is not antisemitic to protest innocents being killed – which is why there was also a lot of outcry about the Oct. 7 attacks. But I don’t see anyone screening the several attacks on Palestine that have been committed by the IDF over the past seven decades. Make it make sense.

  • DM
    Jan 22, 2024 at 12:53 pm

    from a MinnPost article from one year ago… “Hsu drew opposition from many DFL lawmakers for his role in rejecting a move to rename campus buildings for former administrators connected to racist and antisemitic statements and actions.” One year really changes a man, huh.

    Meanwhile Richard Painter was the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005-2007. It was during his tenure as such that the Supreme Court (Hamdan v Rumsfeld, 2006) determined that “military commissions set up by the Bush administration to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Geneva Conventions ratified by the U.S.” (wikipedia) Makes me question his ethics a little bit, doesn’t it???

  • MP
    Jan 18, 2024 at 7:45 am

    This is the same Michael Hsu who accused faculty and grad student researchers of maligning the names of actual anti-semites and racists who have buildings named after them on the Mpls campus. This is the same Michael Hsu who voted against the renaming of these buildings. This is the same Michael Hsu who supported the arrest of esteemed Professor John Wright during a special Regents meeting to discuss the renaming of campus buildings. The video of this Special Meeting is on YouTube; the meeting took place in April, 2019.