Feb 6, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden admin investigating Harvard over Palestinian, Muslim students' complaint

 Dunster House on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023.

Dunster House on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in December. Photo: Mel Musto/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Education is investigating Harvard University over allegations it failed to protect Palestinian, Arab, Muslim students and their allies from harassment, intimidation and threats.

The big picture: The Israel-Hamas war has become a flashpoint on college campuses and contributed to a rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents, watchdog groups note.

Driving the news: The department's Office for Civil Rights confirmed its latest investigation on Tuesday following a complaint filed last week by the Muslim Legal Fund of America on behalf of more than a dozen students.

  • "For months, students at Harvard have been targeted with rampant harassment and racist attacks including doxxing, stalking, and assault simply for being Palestinian, Muslim, and supporters of Palestinian rights. Some have been assaulted simply for wearing keffiyehs — traditional Palestinian scarves — including having objects thrown at them or poured on them on campus," the complaint alleges.
  • "Others have been stalked while working at their on-campus student jobs. Many endured repeated doxxing and threats, even those who did nothing to put themselves in the public eye," it adds.
  • "Instead of providing protection or resources, Harvard responded to the students' requests for help with closed doors, and in some cases threats — by those in positions of power — to limit or retract the students' future academic opportunities."

State of play: A Department of Education spokesperson said via email Tuesday night that the "Department does not comment further on pending investigations."

  • The Muslim Legal Fund noted in a statement welcoming the probe that while "the DOE considers all complaints it receives, it only opens formal investigations where the allegations merit closer consideration."
  • It added: "DOE will investigate how Harvard's actions and inactions contributed to an environment of racism and hatred that escalated on campus."

What they're saying: Representatives for Harvard did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment, but the school's spokesperson Jason Newton told CNN that it supports "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."

Zoom out: Harvard launched task forces last month to combat both antisemitism and Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias on campus.

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