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Brandeis Center Accuses Harvard of ‘Deliberately’ Ignoring Antisemitism in Lawsuit

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The Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jewish Americans for Fairness in Education accused Harvard of “deliberately” ignoring antisemitism on campus and creating “an unbearable educational environment” for Jewish students in a lawsuit filed last week.

In the 72-page complaint, the plaintiffs said the University “allowed antisemitism and anti-Israeli sentiment to fester” following Oct. 7 criticized its decision to not condemn a statement published by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee in October 2023 calling Israel “entirely responsible” for the attack.

The lawsuit largely centers around two incidents: accusations of antisemitism against Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Marshall L. Ganz ’64 by three Israeli students — the subject of a previous complaint filed by the Brandeis Center in March 2023 — and a viral confrontation at a “die-in” at the Harvard Business School in October.

“Through its public actions and failures to act, Harvard has made its position clear: Jews are fair game,” the lawsuit reads. “Students and faculty can harass and discriminate against Jews, and they can do so openly and with impunity.”

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In a statement to The Crimson on Tuesday, University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote that Harvard is “committed to combating hate and to promoting and nurturing civil dialogue and respectful engagement.”

“Harvard has and will continue to be unequivocal – in our words and actions – that antisemitism is not and will not be tolerated on our campus,” Newton wrote.

He declined to comment on the case due to the pending litigation.

The Israeli HKS students — who were enrolled in Ganz’s class in spring 2023 — filed the original Brandeis Center complaint after Ganz told them to “reframe” a proposal for a project on organizing Israelis around a “liberal-Jewish democracy” — a proposal Ganz called “inflammatory.”

In June, an independent investigator hired by HKS Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf found “sufficient evidence” that Ganz had discriminated against the students on the basis of their ethnic identities.

The lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleged that though Elmendorf accepted the investigation’s findings of discrimination as final, the University “failed to take prompt or effective remedial action in response” and Elmendorf “obfuscated and delayed.”

“Harvard failed to acknowledge the hostile and discriminatory environment it had created or communicate to students that such discrimination has no place at Harvard,” the plaintiffs wrote.

In February, Ganz alleged that Elmendorf mishandled the investigation by failing to consult HKS faculty members and barring Ganz from consulting lawyers during the investigation process.

The suit also condemned Harvard for not taking disciplinary action against two graduate students involved in a confrontation with an Israeli student at the October HBS protest.

In a viral video of the incident, the two students — Elom Tettey-Tamaklo, a Harvard Divinity School student, and Ibrahim I. Bharmal, a student jointly enrolled at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School — are seen approaching the Israeli student as he attempts to film the faces of protesters. They then escort the man out of the protest, obstructing his camera with security vests and keffiyehs.

The FBI opened an investigation into the incident days after it occurred, and in November, Tettey-Tamaklo was “indefinitely relieved” of his duties as a proctor in Thayer Hall.

According to the lawsuit, Harvard claimed it did not take immediate disciplinary action against the two students because the University was awaiting the results of an ongoing criminal investigation into the incident per “standard practice” — a move the plaintiffs called “yet another contrived excuse.”

“There is no such policy or practice,” the suit read. “Harvard can make its own assessment, based on its own policies, and it can act accordingly.”

The lawsuit also accused Harvard of delaying a procedural step in filing criminal charges against the two students — a claim that Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.) previously made without evidence in a letter to Harvard leadership about the incident.

Both Tettey-Tamaklo and Bharmal were charged with two misdemeanors in May 2024 for assault and battery, and violating the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act. The two face up to 200 days in jail following the confrontation.

The plaintiffs alleged that Harvard addressed allegations of antisemitism on campus“far more leniently than with other types of discrimination” in what the lawsuit called a “double standard.”

“Harvard’s permissive posture towards antisemitism is the opposite of its aggressive enforcement of the same anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies to protect other minorities,” the plaintiffs argued, writing that “when Harvard is presented with incontrovertible evidence of antisemitic conduct, it ignores and tolerates it.”

—Staff writer William C. Mao can be reached at william.mao@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @williamcmao.

—Staff writer Mandy Zhang can be reached at mandy.zhang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @mandyzhang08.

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