Since October, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has been probing a complaint by the Zionist Organization of America that, among other charges, officials at Rutgers University have been lax in pursuing reports of anti-Semitic intimidation of a pro-Israel student. The complaint stems from incidents over the last two years, including one in which a staff person at the Rutgers Center for Middle Eastern Studies called the student a “racist Zionist pig,” among other choice terms.
This week the Anti-Defamation League seconded ZOA’s complaint, asserting that “university officials have been insufficiently attentive to these issues.” University officials refute the criticism, telling this newspaper that the “claims by the ZOA are contrary to the true values of Rutgers University and are not supported by the facts.”
We urge the OCR to sort out these competing claims thoroughly and vigorously. As the ZOA put it, every student deserves a campus environment “that is physically and emotionally safe and conducive to learning.”
However, neither the probe nor the alleged disregard on the part of university officials should be allowed to leave the impression that Rutgers is a hotbed of anti-Semitic or anti-Israel activity — quite the contrary. In the past year the Jewish population of the state university has grown from 6,000 to 7,400 students. This week we report on the imminent opening of a 55,000-square-foot expansion to the already massive Chabad House on campus, and on Hillel’s plans to build a new headquarters. The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life is itself a hotbed of Judaic scholarship and community-wide programming.
There are active and emboldened pro-Palestinian factions on campus, but they are more than matched by vocal and inspired pro-Israel groups that, with the assistance of Jewish organizations from around the state, offer counter-programming and staffing meant to empower Jewish students and other supporters of Israel.
The goal then should not be to embarrass university officials or discredit the university, but to ensure that administrators are living up to the high standards they have set for themselves and their diverse student body.