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NY Representatives introduce COLUMBIA Act to monitor antisemitism at universities

The proposed bill comes amid growing pro-Palestinian activism on campuses across the country

The legislation was introduced at a time when pro-Palestinian encampments have swept the country, including at Brown.
The legislation was introduced at a time when pro-Palestinian encampments have swept the country, including at Brown.

On Friday, Reps. Mike Lawler (NY-17) and Ritchie Torres (NY-15) introduced a bill to monitor antisemitism on college campuses, named the College Oversight and Legal Updates Mandating Bias Investigations and Accountability Act, or COLUMBIA act.

The proposed bill would allow the Department of Education to hire a “third-party antisemitism monitor” for any college or university that receives federal funding, according to a press release. If a university does not comply, it may lose federal funding.

The monitor would be tasked with releasing a quarterly report, “evaluating in detail the progress that a college or university has made toward combating antisemitism on campus and issuing policy recommendations,” the announcement continued.

The bill comes “in response to the ongoing demonstrations at Columbia University that have created an environment that many Jewish students view as hostile to their well-being and safety,” according to the press release.

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“My office and I have spoken with countless Jewish students from campuses across America who feel deeply unsafe, purely as a result of their religious and ethnic identity,” Torres said in  the announcement. “This is a blatant violation of Title VI and the federal government cannot allow this to continue unchecked.”

The legislation was introduced at a time when pro-Palestinian encampments have swept the country, including at Brown. Students across the nation — including at seven of eight Ivy Leagues — are calling on their universities to divest their endowments from companies with ties to Israel.

At Brown and beyond, Jewish students have expressed mixed sentiments towards encampments and other pro-Palestinian activism since the war between Israel and Hamas began. At Columbia, Rabbi Elie Buechler recommended that Jewish students “return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved.”

In January, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights opened a Title VI Shared Ancestry investigation against Brown. The complaint was filed by Zachary Marschall, editor-in-chief of conservative campus news site Campus Reform who has no affiliation with the University. 

President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 and other university officials expressed optimism about the investigation at the March faculty meeting, noting that they were cooperating with the OCR. There are currently 137 open Title VI Shared Ancestry investigations against “elementary-secondary and post-secondary institutions,” according to the OCR’s website.

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Ryan Doherty

Ryan Doherty is a Section Editor covering faculty, higher education and science & research. He is a sophomore concentrating in chemistry and economics who likes to partially complete crosswords in his free time.



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