Nearly 1,500 students at the University of Southern California (USC) petitioned the university to amend its policies so that Zionist students will be considered eligible for protection from harassment, according to the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that combats antisemitism at colleges and universities in the US.
The petition came after an uproar over the university’s failure to adequately respond to virulently antisemitic and threatening tweets from a USC graduate student, and over other incidents of cyberbullying and a more general sense of personal insecurity felt by pro-Israel students on campus.
“There is a strong sense among students, faculty and members of the Jewish community that had a USC graduate student’s social media messages threatening to kill Zionists and cursing Jews been directed, instead, against another minority, the University would have responded far more promptly and vigorously to such threatening verbal harassment,” wrote the 1,444 petitioners.
“We believe that the source of this unacceptable double standard is USC’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation. Although it states at the outset that ‘all members of the university community should pursue their work, education and engagement in University programs and activities in a safe environment,’ the policy only guarantees a ‘safe environment, free from discrimination and harassment to some students and not all students,” the petition read.
The petitioners demanded that the university amend its harassment policies so they protect pro-Israel students amongst all other students, and not just specifically protected minorities.
“Every student deserves equal protection from harassing behavior that threatens their safety, squashes their self-expression and prevents them from fully participating in campus life, irrespective of their identity or the motivation of their harasser,” the petitioners wrote.
Antisemitic crimes have been on the rise in recent years and 2022 so far has continued that trend. For example, antisemitic hate crimes in New York City almost quadrupled in January 2022 compared to the same month last year, according to NYPD crime statistics.
Some 35 antisemitic incidents have happened in US college campuses alone since the beginning of 2022, according to AMCHA.