Students demonstrate at San Francisco State University in San Francisco.
(photo credit: STEPHEN LAM / REUTERS)
Jewish students will feel a little safer at California State University. On Wednesday, CSU agreed to a landmark settlement to safeguard Jewish students’ rights on campus.
The settlement comes just before the scheduled trial for a civil rights lawsuit filed by two Jewish students, Charles Volk and Liam Kern, against CSU and San Francisco State University in particular for alleged discrimination. The students were represented by The Lawfare Project and Winston & Strawn LLP.
As part of the settlement, SFSU agreed to issue a statement affirming that it understands that, for many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity.
Furthermore, the school will hire a coordinator for Jewish student life, allocate $200,000 to support educational outreach efforts to promote diversity and inclusion based on religious identity, and sponsor a campus mural that will be designed by student groups of differing viewpoints.
The school also agreed to retain an independent, external consultant to assess its procedures for enforcement of applicable CSU system-wide anti-discrimination policies and student code of conduct, and to assign all complaints of religious discrimination under executive orders (E.O.) 1096 or 1097 to an independent, outside investigator.
The order is a CSU system-wide policy prohibiting discrimination, harassment, retaliation, sexual misconduct, dating and domestic violence and stalking against employees and third parties. E.O. 1097 also deals with the procedure for addressing such complaints.
“Today, we have ensured that SFSU will put in place important protections for Jewish and Zionist students to prevent continued discrimination,” said Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project. “We are confident that this will change the campus climate for the better.”
In the complaints filed against the school and the Board of Trustees of CSU, the plaintiffs asserted that “Jews on campus face racist slurs and epithets” and that they are “often afraid to wear Stars of David or yarmulkes. “
Further, the plaintiffs charged that San Francisco Hillel was blocked from participating in a particular event after initially being invited to participate. The lawsuit claimed this was an act of discrimination, and that the “decision to exclude Hillel from the event was made and then sanctioned by high-ranking university officials.
A university investigation later concurred that Hillel had been discriminated against.
The university also issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that, “The settlement emphasizes the importance of improving student experiences and student lives. It allows SF State to reiterate its commitment to equity and inclusion for all – including those who are Jewish – and reaffirms the values of free expression and diversity of viewpoints that are so critical on a university campus.”
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