May 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Education Dept. probes Columbia over alleged anti-Palestinian discrimination

Student protesters demonstrate at the entrance gates of Columbia University on April 30. Photo: Mary Altaffer-Pool/Getty Images

The Department of Education opened an investigation into Columbia University on Thursday following allegations of anti-Palestinian discrimination.

The big picture: There is a growing list of colleges and K-12 school districts being investigated by the department for alleged "discrimination involving shared ancestry," including incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Zoom in: The probe into Columbia comes after advocacy group Palestine Legal said it filed a complaint accusing the Ivy League school in New York of "extreme anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and Islamophobic harassment."

  • An Education Department spokesperson confirmed to Axios that its Office for Civil Rights opened a Title VI investigation into Columbia but said it does not comment further on pending investigations.
  • Palestine Legal is representing four students along with student group Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, who say they have all been the target of anti-Palestinian discrimination and harassment by fellow students, professors and university administrators.
  • The complaint alleges that the university has allowed and contributed to such an environment through incidents involving students receiving death threats, being harassed for wearing keffiyehs or hijabs, being doxxed, suspended and locked out of campus.
  • Columbia said it is not commenting on a pending investigation.

Zoom out: The investigation comes as Columbia was propelled into the spotlight for being a catalyst to nationwide protests on college campuses over the Israel-Hamas war.

  • Amid high tensions, the university begun suspending some student protestors this week for failure to leave their pro-Palestinian encampment and later warned those who breached an administrative building would face expulsion.
  • In an escalation, more than 100 pro-Palestinian protesters were then arrested at the university.

What they're saying: "The law is clear, if universities do not cease their racist crackdowns against Palestinians and their supporters – they will be at risk of losing federal funding," Palestine Legal attorney Radhika Sainath said in a statement.

Go deeper: More schools face Education Department probes over alleged discrimination

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