Dr. Richard L. Cravatts
Dr. Richard L. CravattsPR

In their zeal to construct an academic setting that reflects the true diversity of the nation—and simultaneously attempts to redress past discrimination and exclusion— universities have created campuses that have evolved in an opposite direction. Rather than helping students adapt to the real diversity of society outside the campus walls, the diversity ‘movement’ in the hands of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) diversocrats has served to create balkanized campuses where victims of the moment segregate themselves into distinct and inward-looking racial and cultural groups—exactly the opposite intention of the diversity credo.

Students from “underrepresented,” “marginalized,” and “protected” minority groups, who may well initially arrive at campuses thinking of themselves as part of mainstream society, are taught, in the name of diversity, to think of themselves differently: as part of a racial, cultural, sexual, or political subset of American life and victims of what is purported to be systemic bigotry.

In his engaging book, A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character, Charles J. Sykes traced the growth of this culture of victimization and suggested that it has increasingly opened wide divisions between races, economic and social classes, and the advantaged and the disadvantaged — particularly when self-defined victims make unreasonable or exaggerated demands on the larger society by which they feel victimized.

“In the society of victims,” Sykes wrote, “individuals compete not only for rights or economic advantage but also for points on the ‘sensitivity’ index, where ‘feelings’ rather than reason are what count. Once feelings are established as the barometer of acceptable behavior, speech (and, by extension, thought) becomes only as free as the most sensitive group will permit [italics added].”

Since DEI officers’ raison d'être is to define the boundaries of acceptable behavior and to police what can be said and to whom it may be said on their campuses, members of “protected” student groups are scrupulously shielded against any emotional or ideological assault by university harassment policies and codes of conduct.

-Black students are shielded from overt racism and even microaggressions;

-LGBTQ students are insulated from criticism by alleged homophobes or transphobes, as happened to an unfortunate professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio who was sanctioned for refusing to use a transgender student's preferred pronouns;

-Muslim students are coddled as a sensitive minority group when their beliefs are threatened by pro-Israel guest speakers or any explicit support of Israel articulated by university leaders;

-Hispanic students are saved from being stereotyped with such absurd actions as canceling Cinco de Mayo festivities on campus, as it was in 2017 at Dartmouth College for allegedly being “exploitative” and “inappropriate.”

There is one group, however, notably absent from the accepted list of protected student groups, even though, by virtue of their small numbers and their membership in an ethnic and religious minority, they should rightfully be recognized as such. That group, unsurprisingly, is Jewish students, and especially Jewish students who publicly support Israel.

Both administrators and non-Jewish fellow students perceive Jews as enjoying, in the contemporary parlance of victimism, “white privilege,” because of their supposed status in society or at least being “white adjacent” and part of the majority (read: non-victim) culture. Because the bulk of current anti-Jewish campus activism manifests itself as part of the Israeli/Palestinian debate, the harassment and victimization of Jewish students is often the result of agitation by such toxic student groups as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

So even when Jewish supporters of Israel are reviled and falsely accused of being Zionist racists, supporters of apartheid, land thieves, and oppressors of a wholly-innocent indigenous people, most university leaders have refused to recognize this as a new form of anti-Semitism and have neither admitted to nor satisfactorily addressed the problem, preferring to not recognize Jews as members of a group worthy of or needing protection.

It turns out that the ignored harassment and bias against Jewish students is not accidental but a direct result of them not being considered a “protected” student group who would otherwise enjoy administrative support when infractions arise.

A new report by the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that tracks campus antisemitism, has dramatically revealed that universities’ harassment policies and codes of conduct regularly ignore and fail to protect Jewish students in a way that other, protected groups are. The report, “Falling Through the Cracks: How School Policies Deny Jewish Students Equal Protection from Antisemitism,” exposes how existing codes and policies do not proactively afford protection for Jewish students and also prevent them from seeking redress after instances of bias and harassment have occurred.

“While university officials respond promptly and vigorously to harassing behavior directed at some students,” the report observed, “they ignore or downplay equally harmful acts directed at Jewish and pro-Israel students. This is particularly true when it comes to acts of aggression motivated by anti-Zionism, which constitute the majority of antisemitic incidents on campuses most popular with Jewish students.”

It is important to emphasize that what is euphemistically called “Palestinian activism”—in other words, supporting the Palestinian Arab campaign for self-determination and statehood—is itself a vigorous and often toxic campaign against Israel and its campus supporters, That activism, orchestrated in large part by radical groups like SJP, does not celebrate the culture and aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs at all.

In fact, to be pro-Palestinian on campuses today means only one thing: being singularly and venomously anti-Israel. That includes slanders against Zionism, accusations of supporters of Israel as being racist oppressors, the perverse notion that Israel has become the modern incarnation of the Third Reich, and that supporters of Israel—and especially Jews—should be condemned for defending an illegal, 'apartheid' regime.

Every time a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) resolution is railroaded through a student government to condemn Israel for its oppression; every time pro-Israel speakers are shouted down and interfered with by SJP and other activists; every time Jewish students are questioned as being ideologically acceptable for student government positions if they support Israel; and every time the Jewish state is singled out for opprobrium and slander for its many alleged predations, Jewish students are exposed to what, if this type of frontal attack were taking place against any protected group on campus, would receive immediate rebuke and censure.

That the abuse against Jewish students is largely a by-product of verbal assault and public allegations in the campus setting has proved to be a serious disadvantage to them, the report revealed, because “[w]hile every school’s Harassment Policy included verbal abuse as a form of harassment, nearly one-quarter of the Codes of Conduct did not include verbal abuse in their descriptions of prohibited behavior. Jewish students at a school with such a Code of Conduct who are not considered eligible for protection under the Harassment Policy have little or no administrative recourse from verbal harassment [emphasis added].”

“While some cases of anti-Zionist motivated harassment may involve actions or threats of action that physically endanger Jewish and pro-Israel students, most do not,” the report noted. “Rather, they involve verbal conduct, which means that the Jewish and pro-Israel students . . . who are the targets of such behavior will find it very difficult to seek redress under the school’s code of conduct, even if the verbal abuse they are experiencing meets the behavioral threshold for harassment in the school’s harassment policy and is so severe, persistent and pervasive as to limit their ability to participate in campus life.”

All of the 100 public and private universities surveyed in the report defined the schools’ harassment policy in this way, but, the report importantly noted, “less than 40% of the Codes of Conduct described harassing behavior in this way,” unfortunately exempting Jewish students from protection from the harassment they experience from anti-Israel activism.

What is worse, the report also noted, “60% of schools most popular with Jewish students do not recognize this crucial impact of the harassing behavior, and are therefore less likely to treat such behavior as seriously as they do when directed at members of ‘protected’ identity groups.”

The report concluded that there is a serious disparity in the way students are protected or not, depending on if they are members of a perceived “protected” group, and also punished students more severely if they belonged to one of the protected groups, clearly disadvantaging Jewish students.

“More than one-third of the schools included in their Codes of Conduct statements affirming that harassment of students in ‘protected’ identity groups would receive more severe punitive sanctions than similar behavior directed against ‘unprotected’ students,” the report revealed, “thereby creating a more robust deterrent against the harassment of students in “protected” identity groups than against Jewish victims.”

The current obsession on campuses with protecting the marginalized, the under-represented, and other groups defined now by gender, race, and ethnicity is responsible for the balkanized distinctions between groups of students, a process that, as the AMCHA report exposed, has almost universally deprived Jewish students of the same protections afforded groups in favored victim classes, something that is untenable and unjust.

The report noted that one school, Harvard University, has proposed new policies “which will guarantee ‘unprotected’ students the administrative consideration of and response to harassing behavior equivalent to that granted ‘protected’ students.” Were other universities to adopt such a balanced set of policies—where every student, regardless of their membership in a particular group, would receive equal protection and have the ability to redress any infractions—this would certainly benefit Jewish students who now, as noted, are generally excluded from those protections.

Jewish students on any campus, whether or not they actively support Israel or are animated by Zionism, should not be maligned by virulent and toxic activism against the Jewish state, and made to pay the price for the alleged predations of Israel simply by virtue of being Jewish.

Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Jew-Hatred Rising: The Perversities of the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.