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N.Y.U. Settles Lawsuit by Students Who Claimed Antisemitic Harassment

LocalN.Y.U. Settles Lawsuit by Students Who Claimed Antisemitic Harassment

New York University will take a number of steps to respond to antisemitism as part of a legal settlement with three Jewish students who said they were verbally harassed because of their identities and support for Israel, the university and plaintiffs said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

The university will pay some money as part of the agreement, and create a new administrative position to make sure all allegations of discrimination and harassment are responded to consistently and adequately, among other actions.

The students, Bella Ingber, Sabrina Maslavi and Saul Tawil, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in November accusing the university of failing to take effective steps to quell a pervasive anti-Jewish and anti-Israel atmosphere on campus that made them feel unsafe and denied them equal access to their education.

Their lawsuit is part of a wave of litigation faced by schools around the country from Jewish, Muslim and Arab students who say they have experienced harassment and discrimination on campus since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Columbia, Harvard, U.C.L.A. and the University of Pennsylvania are among the schools that have faced similar suits from Jewish students.

A few cases have already been settled. At Columbia, for example, a case brought by a Jewish student was settled in June after the school agreed to appoint a “safe passage liaison” to serve as the contact for students who have protest-related safety concerns. That settlement also created a process for students to complete any assignments or exams that they were unable to finish because of demonstration activity.

Separately, the federal Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has started to resolve complaints of antisemitism and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab discrimination against universities, including Brown, the City University of New York, the University of Michigan and Lafayette College. The agreements require the universities to more thoroughly investigate complaints of discrimination or harassment, and better train employees on how to respond to such allegations, among other steps.

Ms. Ingber and Ms. Maslavi, juniors and leaders of Students Supporting Israel, a pro-Israel student group at N.Y.U., said that while they were participating in a silent vigil in support of Israel in October in Washington Square Park, they saw students and faculty members burn an Israeli flag, make throat-slitting gestures at the Jewish students present and scream threatening phrases like “gas the Jews.”

Mr. Tawil, also a junior, said in the lawsuit that he was called a “dirty” Jew when he used his phone to record several men surrounding and taunting a woman who had expressed support for Israel after the same rally. When he complained to the school, he was told there was little that N.Y.U. could do and was advised to seek emotional support, the lawsuit said.

Numerous pro-Palestinian demonstrations involving students and faculty members that included chants calling for the elimination of Israel continued to make the students feel unsafe as the semester continued, the lawsuit said. The students asked for monetary damages and for N.Y.U. to change how it handles complaints of antisemitism.

The exact terms of the settlement are confidential, but the joint statement said that in addition the school will create the new position of “Title VI Coordinator” to oversee how the school responds to complaints of discrimination based on protected characteristics like race, religion and national origin.

When determining if actions are antisemitic, the school will follow federal guidance and use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism and its accompanying examples. The definition states that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor,” is antisemitic.

N.Y.U. will also send an annual campuswide message from the Office of the President reminding students of its “zero tolerance” policy for antisemitism and all other discrimination and harassment; dedicate additional resources to the study of antisemitism and Hebrew and Judaic studies; and strengthen its existing relationship with Tel Aviv University, the announcement said.

Linda Mills, the president of N.Y.U., said in the statement that the university was “committed to continuing our vigorous efforts to confront discrimination, including antisemitism,” and called the settlement “yet another step in this direction.”

Marc Kasowitz, the lawyer for the students, said that this and three other lawsuits he was bringing on behalf of Jewish students were “hugely important, because what they aim to do is to set a standard for how the university will comply with Title VI in protecting their Jewish students, the same way they would protect any other protected group.”

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