U.S. Department of Education investigates antisemitic incidents at NYU

“The reason why I filed this complaint is so that no student has to go through what I went through,” former NYU student Adela Cojab told Fox News.

Silver Center for Arts and Science, New York University (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Silver Center for Arts and Science, New York University
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened a new investigation to determine whether several allegedly antisemitic incidents at New York University (NYU) created a hostile environment for Jewish students and if the university reacted accordingly.
The complaint primarily focuses on the university's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
The complaint defined SJP as “a radical organization affiliated with terror groups, bent on adopting a policy of anti-normalization of Jewish groups, and on isolating, demonizing and ultimately destroying the Jewish state," and that the student group "serves as the leading student arm of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States.”
Attorney Neal Sher filed the seven-page complaint on behalf of his client, former NYU student Adela Cojab, who served as the president of an Israel advocacy group at NYU before graduating in May.
“The reason why I filed this complaint is so that no student has to go through what I went through,” Cojab told Fox News. In June, she spoke at length with senior OCR mediators about her experiences with NYU administrators and SJP.
Cojab said that in spring of 2018, out of approximately 360 clubs at NYU, 53 decided to boycott the university's two Israel-supporting groups.
“It was breaking my heart and I immediately went to the administration from the very time SJP put Zionism in the same equivalent as Nazism. I told the administration that SJP was creating an unsafe environment where students felt they were being threatened and targeted. The administration essentially told me that they were supportive of the Jewish community, but no concrete actions would be taken against SJP,” she explained to Fox News.
Cojab also described several two incidents that took place during an Israel celebration in April 2018 during an interview with Fox News. The first occurrence involved an NYU student who lit an Israeli flag in fire and was arrested by the NYPD. After that another student stormed towards stage during the singing of the Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, and grabbed the arm of a student holding a microphone. According to Cojab, he was arrested for physical assault.
"I sent a letter to NYU demanding SJP is disciplined for their actions because students should not walk in fear of being assaulted and SJP was promoting violent actions,” she told Fox News.
“Instead of disciplining the group as a whole, NYU disciplined the two individual students. NYU told me not to post on social media and to lower my own presence and the presence of my community instead of addressing a group that has consistently harassed a minority population.”
Less than one year after the assault, NYU awarded SJP with the President's Service Award, Cojab said, adding that through its actions the university was “essentially stating that SJP’s actions are exemplary.”
NYU's website says that the award is "given to students or student organizations that have had an extraordinary and positive impact on the University community, including achievements within schools and departments, the University at large, local neighborhoods, and NYU's presence in the world."
Cojab said that the award prompted her to take legal action because it clearly showed that the administration 'did not understand the gravity of SJP's actions," the New York Post reported.
“SJP is national. There is a real possibility that action taken by the government in this case could actually have nationwide impact,” Sher told Fox News. “There could be a ripple effect on campuses all over.”
Sher previously headed the US Department of Justice's Nazi war crimes prosecution office for 15 years.
According to Sher, the Department of Education's investigation is in progress and there are no signs of when it will conclude.
NYU's SJP chapter sent a statement to Fox News regarding the investigation.
“NYU Students for Justice in Palestine and NYU Jewish Voice for Peace believe Palestinian liberation and Jewish liberation go hand in hand. We work tirelessly against anti-racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism. The fact that around half of SJP is Jewish, along with our interfaith work where an Israeli Jewish woman and a Palestinian Muslim woman crafted a BDS resolution on human rights, is evidence of just that,” the organization wrote.
Cojab's case isn't the only one of its kind at NYU. In May, at the Doctoral Convocation Ceremony of the New York University Graduate School of Arts & Science a doctoral graduate expressed his support for the BDS movement. NYU President Andrew Hamilton said in a statement that the graduate had omitted his comments about BDS in the version of the speech he submitted to the school for review before the ceremony.
The university also decided boycott its own satellite campus in Tel Aviv in May.