The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Biden administration investigating Lafayette for antisemitism

U.S.+Secretary+of+Education+Miguel+Cardona+announced+the+investigation+on+Nov.+16.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+ABC+News%29
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the investigation on Nov. 16. (Photo courtesy of ABC News)

Editor’s note 11/30/2023: This article has been updated to include statements from several individuals and information regarding investigations into other schools.

The Biden administration opened a probe into Lafayette College on Nov. 16 over alleged antisemitic discrimination.

The probe, first reported by CNN, is part of a series of investigations by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights into alleged antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents at 12 schools. According to a Nov. 17 email sent to the campus community and signed by college President Nicole Hurd, the college is “fully cooperating” with the inquiry.

It is unclear what incident the government is investigating – a spokesman for the Department of Education declined to comment, writing in an email that “the Office for Civil Rights does not discuss the details of its current investigations.” The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Scott Morse, the college’s assistant vice president for communications and marketing, as saying, “We do not know why the [Office for Civil Rights] decided to include the College in this investigation.”

Morse, when reached for comment by The Lafayette, declined to provide any more information, deferring to Hurd’s statement.

A letter the college received from the Office for Civil Rights, quoted by Hurd in her email, read that “the College discriminated against students on the basis of national origin (shared Jewish ancestry) by failing to respond to incidents of harassment in October 2023.”

The email then referenced an incident that occurred last month in which a student held up a poster that read “from the river to the sea” at a pro-Palestine protest, though, in an interview, Hurd declined to definitively state whether the complaint stemmed from the protest incident — she did, however, confirm that the investigation was related to antisemitism. 

Several hours after the protest, Hurd condemned the poster for having “antisemitic meaning” and promised that the incident would be “addressed through our bias incident accountability process,” a process that is voluntary for subjects of complaints, according to the Dean of Students Office website.

According to Sarah Moschenross, the vice president for student life, the bias accountability process “is one of support and education.”

“The hope is that learning and reconciliation take place, like a restorative practice framework,” Moschenross wrote in an email. She did not divulge whether disciplinary action had been taken against the student.

The administration contended that extensive outreach has been made by its members to Jewish students in the wake of the protest. According to Pete Mackey, the interim vice president for communications and marketing, administrators including Hurd, her chief of staff, the college chaplain and members of the student life staff have participated in both one-on-one and group meetings with students affected by the war between Israel and Hamas. 

The student who held the poster in question at the protest declined to comment, citing emotional distress. Protest organizers, who participated in making the posters, also declined to comment. They had previously denied that the poster was antisemitic and disavowed hate speech.

Moschenross went on to state that, after the protest, “outreach occurred” from her office with the Hillel Society, the campus Jewish affinity organization. The Hillel president, Jenna Herzog ‘24, declined to comment on specific outreach that has taken place, as did mathematics professor Ethan Berkove, the Hillel advisor.

Lafayette was initially among seven schools being investigated for antisemitism or Islamophobia. Among the initial inquiries were Columbia University, which saw pro-Palestine students doxxed and an Israeli student assaulted, and Cornell University, where the FBI is investigating a student who threatened to murder Jewish students.

Since the investigations were announced on Nov. 17, six more inquiries have been opened, including an investigation into Harvard University and a second into Columbia.

Madeline Marriott ’24 and Selma O’Malley ’26 contributed reporting.

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Trebor Maitin
Trebor Maitin, Managing Editor
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  • D

    DK AlumDec 3, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    Just one more reason to abolish the US Dept of Ed. Let the institutions do their own investigations or pay the price by ignoring. BTW, abolish the teachers unions as well as they support themselves and not necessarily teachers and certainly not students. Such waste of taxpayer dollars.

    Reply
  • A

    Alumni , 1993.Nov 21, 2023 at 11:46 pm

    The fact that the sign is held up at multiple protests throughout the nation with impunity is totally irrelevant. That sign calls for the dismantling of Israel, and the genocide of the Jewish people who live in israel. Plain and simple. I’m guessing that the student at lafayette did not know the implications of that sign and did not personally wish to dismantle Israel. Just a guess. However, the sign has come to mean a call for genocide. And the Jewish student who saw the sign was right to call it out. Jewish students throughout america have been harassed, intimidated, and occasionally been victims of violence. Many of these protestors operate with full immunity. At many of these protests, that sign appears right next to signs for “gas the Jews”, “we support Hamas”, calls for “we don’t want two states, we want 1948” i.e. we want a world with NO ISRAEl. Another shout out for the liquidation of Israel. As far as Israeli sovereignty between the Jordan river and the Sea…… absolutely israel has a right to that. It is the nation state of the Jewish people, yet 25% of all israeli citizens are non-Jews! It is a vibrant democracy with full civil rights for all its citizens. Israel is NOT “ethnically cleansed” of non-Jews. Calls for israeli sovereignty do NOT indicate a call for “ethnic cleansing” of non-Jews. I can explain more. I have personally studied israeli history (from both sides) for 23 years. Have read countless text books from both sides.

    Conversely, a call for a “Free Palestine from the river to the sea” IS absolutely a call for the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Jews in “liberated Palestine”. The statement is blatantly racist and genocidal. The sign does NOT call to forge a new peaceful Palestinian nation where Jews continue to live. Absolutely NOT. The sign indicates a call to eradicate Israel and to commit genocide on the Jewish people. The essence of racism. Racist, harassing , and intimidating language used in a protest does NOT merit protection under the first amendment.

    Lafayette was absolutely right to take this sign down.

    I applaud Lafayette. Great job. I would bet that very few colleges in America would have behaved in this way. Very few.

    I am proud of lafayette here. I am disappointed that Lafayette is being investigated here for antisemitism. Of course, I don’t know all the details of the report, but suffice it to say, it seems as if Lafayette did an amazing job here. Perhaps other details might surface to indicate otherwise, but hopefully not.

    Reply
    • C

      Current JuniorDec 1, 2023 at 9:08 am

      “From the River to the Sea” does not call for genocide of the Jewish people. It calls for the dismantling of the racist Zionist state. Any settlers that have evicted Palestinians from their homes would be forced to return them, but otherwise all Jewish people would be allowed to stay in Palestine. There are Jewish people being killed in the current Palestinian genocide. There is no two state solution. Racist Netenyahu has said that himself.

      Also, neo-Nazis have been inserting themselves in pro-Palestinian rallies. It goes without saying that most pro-Palestinians don’t support antisemitism. They also don’t support Islamophobia, which has increased since October 7. Lafayette did not independently investigate the student who held up the sign. It was investigated due to a report by a student who ws encouraged to do so by other Zionists. Zionism is actively antisemitic, and was created by an athiest who wanted Jewish people out of his country. Maybe you should do a little more research before you encourage hate.

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      • A

        Alum 1993Dec 20, 2023 at 2:23 am

        Your understanding of the Arab-israeli conflict is wrong on many levels. “From the river to the sea” is a slogan that has been used by Arab leaders dating back to 1948. Hamas uses the slogan. It’s part of their mantra. See their website. It calls for the total dismantling of the one Jewish nation on Earth. Of course, it’s hateful. Hamas’ singular goal is the total liquidation of israel, the total and complete genocide of the Jewish people wherever they exist, whether in Israel, or anywhere, and the total genocide of all non-Muslims on earth. Again, see their website.

        Furthermore, The jewish people are indeed the indigenous people of this land, dating back 3 k years. One cannot “settle” or “colonize” one own’s land. A call for the “liberation of Palestine” IS a call for the liquidation of Israel and it’s jewish inhabitants (half of world Jews).

        There has never been an independent sovereign Palestinian nation in this land at any time in history. Ever. Thus the land is not “settled” or “occupied”.

        However, there absolutely has been a large Palestinian Arab population in this land. No doubt. In 1948, for example, Arabs represented about 2/3 of the population of modern day Israel, and Jews represented about 1/3. And The Jewish people have always been a majority within the confines of Jerusalem.

        Furthermore, the Jewish people of Palestine have indeed been willing to peacefully accept an independent Palestinian state side-by-side with a Jewish nation in this land on SIX occasions. I repeat… …. A two-state partition has been accepted by Jews and rejected by Palestinian Arabs on SIX occasions (dating back to 1937).

        Furthermore, Israel has never been “cleansed” of Arabs. Ever. Arabs have full civil rights in Israel and make up more than 20% of Israeli population. And the Arab population of Israel has grown tremendously over the last 75 years and continues to grow. Conversely, every Arab nation on earth, and every Arab village within the West Bank and Gaza has been systematically ethnically cleansed of Jews. These are historic facts. Arab nations and Arab areas within Israel have engaged in systematic Apartheid, not Israel. Apartheid does NOT result in the increase in population!

        22 Arab nations on Earth. More than 99% of the land mass of the Middle East is Arab. One tiny Jewish nation on earth.

        In summary, the pro palestinian movement is absolutely hateful. It calls for the dismantling and liquidation of the one Jewish nation on Earth.

        Lastly, let’s try this exercise.. Let’s substitute another nation (e.g. Italy) in this debate and see how it looks:

        I allege that Italy has no right to exist. It is illegitimate, illegal, racist, and colonial. It is an apartheid state. And it should be dismantled and the Italian people who live in Italy should be liquidated and replaced with a different people.

        But, I don’t hate the Italian people.

        Hmmm…..

        Reply
  • A

    Alum ‘18Nov 17, 2023 at 9:51 pm

    Is this for real? The college is being investigated for a student holding up a poster with a phrase commonly used in protests around the country while there have been blatantly Islamophobic and anti-Arab statements on YikYak? Celebration of violence against Palestinians? The Biden Admin is hellbent on losing the 2024 election and the Lafayette Administration on losing another generation of POC Alums. Shame!

    Reply
    • R

      Robert SteinbergNov 18, 2023 at 9:33 am

      Irrelevant if the phrase is used in protests around the country…

      “FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA”

      It calls for the establishment of a State of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, erasing the State of Israel and its people.

      Reply
      • A

        Alum ‘18Nov 18, 2023 at 12:13 pm

        Are you aware the Likud (Netanyahu’s party) platform also calls for only one Israeli sovereignty between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea? And some extremists in his government want every thing from the Nile (Egypt) to Euphrates (Iraq).

        The River to sea phrase has multiple interpretations and the one used by the student did not mean complete erasure of an Israeli state whereas the Likud use of it leaves no room for interpretation. Anyone who denies the only solution is a just two state solution with respect for minorities in both is an enemy of peace and the safety of Jewish and Palestinian people.

        Reply
        • R

          Robert SteinbergNov 18, 2023 at 2:45 pm

          Multiple interpretations..? Just like the German word “Heil” had different meanings, interpretations? We all know how that particular word ended up being used the most.

          I’ll get back to you once Hamas is eradicated, hostages (should they still be alive) released and Netanyahu resigns…

          Reply
        • S

          Steve Golden '86Nov 22, 2023 at 11:15 am

          The pro-Palestinian phrase ‘From the river to the sea’ certainly does NOT have multiple meanings. Its only meaning is the way that Hamas uses it: to have an Islamic land that is Judenrein (indeed, free of all infidels no matter what religion they profess). Asserting that it does, by the way, is a deconstructionist argument that gains sustenance from the fact that dissembling is permitted and honorable in Islam.

          Your paraphrase from Hamas’ Charter regarding a putative Israeli desire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates River is another red herring and a lie, since Israel as a member state of the United Nations recognizes the existing boundaries of other nations. Moreover, it is irrelevant that a tiny number of Israelis may believe in a messianic idea of a ‘Greater Israel’ from Egypt to Iraq because those Israelis do not recognize the State of Israel and choose not to vote in elections.

          Please do not insult the intelligence of readers by equating a genocidal movement called Hamas (read its Charter) with the secular, modern, democratic State of Israel (read its Declaration of Independence). The present right-wing Netanyahu government is problematic for many reasons – and may certainly be castigated for retarding the prospects of a two-state solution. Yet, non-Jewish citizens of Israel have existential rights enshrined in law, and in practice it is by far the most open and free society in the Middle East. The Muslim and Christian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza are oppressed by two autocratic and immensely corrupt governing bodies – the PA and Hamas – that care absolutely nothing for their people who widely hate them and do not speak out for fear of their lives.

          Reply