Watchdogs: Jewish students often target of hate, bias on U.S. college campuses
Multiple studies from leading watchdog groups show that Jewish students are too often the targets of hate and bias on American college campuses. Team 12 Investigates compiled an exclusive database to see how many incidents occurred on campuses in the tri-state over the span of four years, compared to how many were reported to the federal government.
Students say campus climate has made them question wearing Jewish symbols in public.
“I'd be lying if I said I didn't think twice about not wearing the Magen David,” says Adela Cojab, an NYU graduate currently studying at the Cardozo School of Law.
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires universities to annually disclose crime statistics, including hate crimes.
TEAM 12 INVESTIGATES: Bias Incidents on Campus Database
News 12's exclusive database includes antisemitic incidents on campuses in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut between 2017 and 2020. These events were documented by Jewish watchdog groups like the Anti-Defamation League and Amcha Initiative. Examples include Zoom bombing, harassment, threats and dozens of swastikas.
"Perhaps they're excluded from different groups on campus because they are supportive of Israel. Sometimes it's more blatant than that, a 'Heil Hitler' salute," says Scott Richman, ADL regional director for New York and New Jersey. "Sometimes, It's some sort of statement, like a derogatory remark."
Of 123 antisemitic incidents in the region, Team 12 Investigates found that 50 were documented in the Clery reports, or 40%. Rutgers University, for example, saw at least 21 incidents in that span, according to the ADL, but our team found that their Clery report reflected two hate crimes for those years. Similarly with Princeton University, which had at least seven occurrences, but none were documented as hate crimes in their Clery report.
“The school with more discrimination is less appealing to a student,” says Cojab, who is studying religious liberty and civil rights law.
The Clery Act only requires schools to report hate crimes, which were found to have been motivated by hate towards a protected group, whereas the watchdog groups include acts that, while certainly offensive, don't necessarily rise to the level of a hate crime. Many university administrators said that was why most of these incidents didn't make it into their own reports. However, while some campuses, like Fordham University, reported each event anyway, others reported none.
Over the span of our reporting, Team 12 Investigates reached out to these universities for an interview, but almost all declined to speak with us. When News 12 asked about their Clery reports, most universities sent us statements, explaining that the swastika or alleged harassment was not found to be motivated by hate and did not meet the requirements to be included in their crime statistics. Some avoided our direct question, while a few never responded.
“Jews are, once again, becoming a scapegoat for people who are angry about other things,” says Kenneth Marcus, the founder of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. His team has been tracking campus climate for a recent survey.
The survey's results show that more than 65% of openly Jewish college students have felt unsafe on campus. Half of the respondents said they felt the need to hide their Jewish identity.
"I would say there has been steady problem, steady decline over 20 years, and much worse, much worse over the last few years. Especially over the last several months," says Marcus.
Yoni Nirenberg, a pharmacy student at LIU Brooklyn, may proudly wear his kippah, but he says that's not always the case for others.
“We have Jews that remove their religious symbols like their kippah or their ring that has Jewish lettering on it,” Nirenberg says.
This issue also got the attention of the Anti-Defamation Leage, who conducted its own study, which showed that one-third of Jewish students personally experienced antisemitism on campus.
ADL regional director Scott Richman says the problem doesn't stop there.
"Seventy-five percent of them had not reported this to anybody. Now, that's a very significant figure, if we don't know what's happening, we can't combat it," he says.
That's why ADL, along with other leading Jewish campus groups like Hillel and Secure Community Network, have created their own portal so students can report antisemitism.
Students say every slur or swastika leaves their campus community traumatized. However, many tell News 12 they feel optimistic because they see a new wave of students not afraid to speak up about campus issues.
"I'm very defiant and I won't hide my identity," says Alaiev, adding, "that means I'm always looking over my shoulder.”
CLICK HERE to browse through our full database of incidents and the responses from each university.