The US Department of Education has launched an investigation into allegations of antisemitic harassment at the University of Vermont (UVM).

The group of Jewish students, who have remained anonymous due to fears over their safety and being targeted on campus, alleged that even openly identifying as Jewish at the school could place them in danger. This included "online harassment against Jewish students by a teaching assistant,” being kicked out of a support group for sexual assault victims, being barred from a book club, and the university’s Hillel building being targeted with antisemitic vandalism.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is reviewing evidence presented by the students to determine if the university is in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which makes discrimination based on race and religion illegal.

“Jewish students have expressed fear about identifying publicly as Jewish, report hiding their Jewish identity and have considered transferring out of UVM due to the hostile environment toward Jews,” according to the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a legal advocacy group representing the students in their complaint to the OCR.

The complaint said that “an environment of harassment and intimidation has existed at UVM for years, but it intensified in 2021 when a UVM TA repeatedly instigated hate against Jewish students who express support for Zionism, even threatening to lower their grades, two student groups deliberately excluded Jewish students who expressed support for Zionism from membership, and the Hillel building was pelted for nearly 40 minutes and vandalized.”

According to UVM Hillel, during this period more than 150 students contacted Hillel expressing serious concern, some sharing that they felt “they had nowhere else to go.” Hillel posted at the time, “[t]he onslaught of antisemitism [the students] are experiencing online and among their UVM community is unyielding.”

“All of these incidents – the exclusion of Jewish Zionist students from UVM student groups, the targeting of the Hillel building, and the TA’s social media posts – have been reported to the UVM administration,” the Brandeis Center wrote in the complaint. “UVM students have met with UVM administrators and shared stories with them of how the students have been personally harassed and harmed by the hostile antisemitic environment on campus. To date, however, the university has taken no steps to rectify the situation.”

They added: “The University of Vermont is permitting a hostile environment that marginalizes and excludes Jewish students for whom Zionism is integral to their Jewish identity. In doing so, UVM is denying equal access to educational opportunities and services to Jewish students on the basis of their shared ancestry and ethnicity in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”