UVM Rejects Claims of Shoddy Response to Antisemitism Allegations

The University of Vermont is responding to allegations of a slow response to claims of antisemitism on campus.

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The University of Vermont is strongly rejecting allegations that surfaced earlier this week of a slow response by administrators to claims of antisemitism on campus.

NECN and NBC10 Boston reported on Tuesday that a federal investigation is underway from the civil rights wing of the U.S. Department of Education. The complaint was filed by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and the group Jewish on Campus.

The document said a center for Jewish campus life had items thrown at it, including small rocks. The filing also accused a teaching assistant of discriminating against Jewish students. Additionally, the document described an advocacy group for sexual assault survivors allegedly blocking Jews from joining.

"Why this case is so important for us is that we see students being excluded from campus life," Julia Jassey, the leader of Jewish on Campus, said on Tuesday.

"If the university is to truly be a safe, welcoming space for all, then the Jewish students also have to be able to come to the table with their full identity," Alyza Lewin of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law told NECN and NBC10 Boston Tuesday. "And that's all we need to fix. That's just what we need to fix."

In a statement issued Thursday, the university said the filing with the federal officials was wrong when it said UVM failed to respond swiftly to complaints.

Suresh Garimella, the president of the University of Vermont, said each of those claims was thoroughly investigated and promptly addressed. Garimella said the allegations filed with the U.S. Department of Education "painted our community in a patently false light," and described the claims as "uninformed."

"UVM is a community with a long, proud history of inclusiveness," Garimella wrote. "We denounce hateful actions and respond briskly and decisively whenever those responsible are identified."

The response from UVM to the allegations said the vandalism report was based on a misunderstanding, and insisted that online postings from the teaching assistant did not result in lowered grades for Jewish students. The university also emphasized the support group in question is not a recognized campus organization, but noted it was still reminded of university policies around inclusion.

The U.S. Department of Education confirms its civil rights office is now looking into concerns raised by Jewish students at UVM.

"It is important that our community know the truth about what happened, and how the university responded," Garimella wrote. "Although the allegations were investigated and addressed, we recognize we can and should do more to support the success of our students."

Garimella wrote that UVM treats antisemitism and other forms of bias or harassment with the utmost of seriousness. The university plans more dialogue with Jewish students to better understand their experiences, UVM's leader said.

In the letter to the school community, UVM provided a link to an online incident reporting tool, promising supportive responses.

The civil rights investigation from the U.S. Department of Education is still ongoing.

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