Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Offices Take the Spotlight in Congressional Hearing on Antisemitism on College Campuses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – We’ve seen a rise in antisemitism across the nation, especially on college campuses, ever since the Israel-Hamas conflict began early last month. Protecting Jewish students was the topic of a recent congressional hearing but the focus of that hearing turned into a fight over Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) offices.  

“There is vandalism, there’s harassment of all sorts,” said Kenneth Marcus, Esq. Founder and Chairman, Brandeis Center.  

In a House congressional hearing, members of the Jewish community share how Jewish students on college campuses are growing more fearful of their safety. Ever since the Israel- Hamas conflict began in early October, agencies said there’s been an increase in reports of antisemitic threats, including at Cornell University where a student has now been charged and arrested for posting threats to kill members of the university’s Jewish community.  

The hearing’s topic was about antisemitism on college campuses but it quickly shifted into a fight over DEI offices on college campuses.  

“Evidence shows that campus DEI bureaucracies play a major role in propagating the spread of antisemitism,” said Rep. Burgess Owens (R- UT). “It is a dirty little secret at the heart to DEI as it seeks to dismantle systems of oppression. It divides the world into oppressors and the oppressed, ascribing collective guilt to the oppressors and collected innocence to the oppressed… DEI hierarchy places the Jewish people at the very bottom of the oppression spectrum.” 

Republicans have often criticized DEI offices as a waste of federal dollars.  

“I hope my republican colleagues will denounce the culture wars that have distracted us from protecting our vulnerable students and I hope we can all stand behind the Biden administration’s critical work to ensure that every student and educator has access to a campus free from discrimination, harassment and violence,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D- VA).  

But one witness argues while DEI offices might not have been set up initially to help Jewish students, the programs can be changed.  

“Jews need support,” said Stacy Burdett, an independent consultant in Antisemitism Prevention and Response. “We need solidarity and we need recognition that antisemitism is serious and that’s why organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League see DEI as critical framework for their work. They’re investing in DEI compatible education material about antisemitism. It’s true Jews don’t fit neatly into the protected categories. Its not rocket science to fix that, so enhance it.”