Nov 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden admin opens discrimination probes into Harvard, NYC Department of Ed.

the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, on Saturday, Aug. 26

Harvard University campus on Aug. 26. Photo: Simon Simard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Education opened new investigations this week into Harvard University and the New York City Department of Education over alleged incidents of discrimination.

Why it matters: The probes add to a growing list of universities and school districts across the U.S. where the federal agency is investigating allegations of antisemitism or Islamophobia.

Catch up quick: Earlier this month, the Department of Education opened shared ancestry investigations into six colleges and a K-12 school district.

  • Five of the probes involved allegations of antisemitic harassment and two concerned allegations of anti-Muslim harassment, the department said.
  • The Education Department said that it would update the list of schools being investigated weekly.
  • Last week it added several more investigations to the list, including the University of Tampa and a Florida school district.

Driving the news: While Harvard and the New York City Department of Education were added to the list on Tuesday, the federal agency decliend to share details about the probes.

  • "The Office for Civil Rights does not discuss the details of its investigations," an Education Department spokesperson told Axios Wednesday.
  • Citing a letter from the department to the school, the Boston Globe reported that the Harvard investigation was prompted by a complaint alleging the school discriminated against Jewish and Israeli students when it failed to appropriately respond to incidents of harassment in October.
  • "We support the work of the Office of Civil Rights to ensure students' rights to access educational programs are safeguarded and will work with the office to address their questions," a Harvard spokesperson told Axios Wednesday.
  • The New York City Department of Education did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment regarding the investigation.

Of note: Harvard President Claudine Gay condemned antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus in a community letter earlier this month.

  • Gay also referenced an incident on the Harvard Business School campus in October, noting was being investigated by the FBI and the Harvard University Police Department.
  • The Harvard Crimson reported that a "die-in" was held at the business school that day to call for an end to violence in Gaza.
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