The Rise of Antisemitism on College Campuses

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Antisemitism has been on the rise and has become more evident to the public as each day passes. The past and present acts of antisemitism on college campuses must be acknowledged to guarantee the safety of all students attending universities and not just specific groups. This generation of students will possibly have more exposure to antisemitism on college campuses than past generations will have experienced in recent years. Which leads to the question: Where is the line drawn between protecting student’s education against antisemitism on a college campus and the right of freedom of speech? The problem that has been seen is that many people will argue that their slander towards Jewish people is a part of their right to freedom of speech. This is where the line is drawn between freedom of speech and antisemitism, therefore, leading to actions taken to protect students and faculty against antisemitism. One example of this is the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2018 introduced into Congress in May 2018 by Senator Tim Scott.

During the 1920s and 30s, Harvard University did not approve of Jews attending their university, so they created a “Jewish quota”, which prevented “Boston and New York Jews” from attending the university (Harold Brackman, 4-5). This act of antisemitism created a pattern for antisemitic practices that encouraged other schools, like Yale University, for example, to follow suit in creating a hostile environment for Jewish students and faculty. Nothing was done in this situation, which puts into question the faculty’s ability to separate religion from their thoughts and opinions since it was the president of Harvard who initiated the Jewish quota at the university. The “Jewish quota” should have been questioned for its unfair and unjust reasoning to specifically exclude and discriminate against the Jewish population based on someone’s opinion of not wanting Jewish students attending. The focus of the universities should be that every student, no matter their race or religion, receives equal protection and rights for their education as required in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Another act of antisemitism on a college campus was at the University of Wisconsin in 1929 when the housing management accepted Mildred Gordon’s application but then declined it to accommodate a non-Jewish student. This act represents discrimination based on religion because the management openly rejected Gordon’s application to give it to a Gentile applicant, who applied late because they only “took Jewish renters when not enough Gentiles applied” (Pollack). In her application, she had checked her religion as Jewish and that was the main reason why the manager chose the Gentile student over the Jewish student. Unfortunately, students who identify as Jewish are constantly bombarded with unfair treatment that set them back from those around them. Jewish people constantly must stand up for themselves and prove that they are worthy to others because they are considered by some to be inferior to their peers. Louis Behr for example, an Orthodox Jew and captain of the basketball team at University Wisconsin, was awarded the Kenneth Sterling Day Memorial Prize because he exhibited “essential Christian worth as evidenced by moral character” (Pollack). Behr stated that “ideals of religion are fundamentally the same”, which makes one wonder, why do we distance ourselves from others just because we have different values or beliefs, but the foundation our religion is similar? Everyone is human, which means we all make mistakes, but we should not judge or dismiss a person just because we do not share the same core opinions.

At Western Washington University, anything related to antisemitism is not tolerated. In response to antisemitism, there is a special task force designed to recommend ways to understand and spread awareness about the effects of antisemitism on the Jewish community (Randhawa). There have been past acts of antisemitism that occurred on the Western campus, which included antisemitic graffiti of a swastika on a faculty’s office door and there was a Jewish studies book from the library that was vandalized (Giffena). Western Washington University has taken precautions to combat against antisemitism on campus to make it safer and more equal for students who identify as Jewish.

Now it’s time to take a glimpse at present-day antisemitism and see how it compares to former acts of antisemitism on college campuses. In 2014 at DePaul University, there was a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state called the “DePaul Divest”, which was an intimidation and hate campaign aimed at the people of Israel. At Loyola University Chicago, there was a “campus climate towards Jews” where it created an atmosphere that affected the feeling of safety for all Jewish students that attended Loyola. Then there was a protest at Ohio University where Megan Marzec created a parody of the ALS ice bucket challenge, except instead of dumping ice water on her head, she dumped a bucket of blood on her head to protest “against Israel’s defensive war against Hamas in Gaza” (Brackman). This ultimately led to the arrest of four Jewish students after they disrupted a meeting, ordering that Marzec should have to resign. These examples of acts of antisemitism prove that there has been no decline in the oppression of the Jewish people and what they still face on college campuses today. This feeds into the idea that antisemitism is just a word to the people who use it to act on unjust treatment and use it to blame the Jewish people since there isn’t any force that is stopping these heinous acts.

To combat antisemitism, the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2018 was introduced to protect against discrimination on the “basis of race, color, or national origin in programs receiving federal financial assistance, including higher education” (ACLU). The conflict that arises with this act is that it might “risk chilling the free speech of students on college campuses” because the bill risks incorrectly equating Islam criticism with antisemitism (ACLU). Recently, the antisemitism envoy post, created by Congress in 2004, was vacated the year Donald Trump became president in 2017 and had not been filled since then. The antisemitism envoy position was designed to combat antisemitism worldwide, which could help the rise of antisemitism decline because people would become more aware of the effects of antisemitism.

It is evident that the plethora acts of antisemitism on college campuses have given Gentile students an advantage in furthering their education at universities while Jewish students must fight for their right to be there. The Antisemitism Awareness Act would be able to protect against bullying towards Jewish people on college campuses and prevent hateful acts against them while not prohibiting freedom of speech. Many college campuses in the past were aware of antisemitism that occurred but rarely took any precautions to stop or hinder the horrible treatment that Jewish students and faculty endured. Since the past can’t be undone, the present should be used to focus on furthering a student’s education and safety without having to worry about their religion and the ramifications.

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The Rise of Antisemitism on College Campuses. (2022, Feb 08). Retrieved June 23, 2024 , from

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