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Occidental and Pomona Colleges Hit with Federal Complaints for Permitting Aggressive Antisemitism

The complaint alleges Jewish students have had to avoid classes and events and some have had to transfer because of severe intimidation and bullying

Washington, D.C., May 9, 2024: The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) today announced they have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights against two California colleges -- Occidental and Pomona -- for permitting severe discrimination and harassment of Jewish students in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Arnold & Porter joined the Brandeis Center and ADL in the filing against Pomona College.

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Pomona administration finally called the police after kaffiyeh-wearing protestors occupied the president's office on April 9. 19 were arrested and then released.

Since 10/7, Jewish and Israeli students on both campuses have been verbally harassed and physically surrounded, followed, threatened, and intimidated by protestors. They have been shouted at, told to "go back to the gas chambers," and called "kike," "f**king Jew," "f**king Zionist," and "murderer." Many have been obstructed from moving freely about campus and cannot carry out their jobs or partake in educational opportunities as a result of anti-Semitic bullying, and some have even been physically assaulted. Many Jewish students confine themselves to their dorm rooms or refrain from participating in certain educational and/or extracurricular activities, avoiding certain dining halls or cafés, common areas on campus, and campus events to avoid anti-Semitic harassment. Several have transferred to other schools due to persistent anti-Semitism.

"Jewish students on these campuses are hiding in their dorms and avoiding their own campus rather than risk verbal and physical attacks," stated Kenneth L. Marcus, founder and chairman of the Brandeis Center and the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. "Pomona and Occidental know full well this is happening. But instead of enforcing the law and their own policies, they are caving to the anti-Semitic mob and letting them bully, harass, and intimidate Jewish students. Anti-Semitism left unaddressed will not go away. It will only snowball and escalate until the problem is faced head on as the law requires."

"There's simply no excuse for the persistent and pervasive antisemitic harassment being faced by Jewish students at Occidental and Pomona colleges," said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director. "No student should be forced to transfer due to continual harassment. We urge the U.S. Department of Education to investigate these schools for potential civil rights violations and to take effective measures to protect Jewish students on these campuses."

Occidental College

Occidental is fully aware of the pervasive and hostile environment for Jewish students, and has ignored and enabled it.

The complaint details how Jewish students were forced out of school-sponsored employment opportunities due to severe and pervasive anti-Semitic environments. Many Jewish students chose to leave their jobs rather than continue to subject themselves to anti-Semitic attacks, Holocaust inversion, and harassment while others chose to take unsafe routes home rather than continue to be harassed.

At every turn, Occidental has put its Jewish students last, swiftly enforcing policies against its Jewish students while continuing to ignore the same or similar violations from the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic crowd. Jewish students are harassed and obstructed daily on campus, in their dorms, in the dining hall, and more. One particularly egregious incident occurred when anti-Semitic protests occupied and vandalized the central administrative building for nearly a week. Despite several warnings to the trespassing students and staff, Occidental forwent enforcing school policies and instead capitulated to the occupiers' demands. Occidental sent a clear message – when the victims of violations are Jewish, the rules will not be enforced.

Faculty at Occidental have also played a role in encouraging the anti-Semitic environment. One professor told her students she felt "invigorated" by the Hamas terrorist attack and encouraged students to share her excitement. Others have participated in pro-Hamas chanting and made anti-Semitic statements. More than 60 faculty members sent an email denying that Hamas' actions were terrorism. The school has said nothing to condemn these anti-Semitic declarations, sending a green light to students that this behavior is permitted.

Pomona College

The already hostile environment for Jewish students at Pomona took a turn for the worse immediately following the October 7 terrorist attack with various student groups and members of the faculty loudly supporting the murderous Hamas attacks, blaming the Israeli victims, and creating a shrine honoring the Hamas terrorists. Pomona students blocked access to buildings, interfered with classes and school events, and harassed current and prospective students. At first, the Pomona administration did very little to remedy the hostile environment. But as the situation deteriorated, President G. Gabrielle Starr eventually began to respond. But despite her laudable, albeit belated efforts to address growing antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment on campus, Pomona failed to eliminate the hostile environment, in part, because the opposition from pro-Hamas students and faculty had already grown too strong.

Multiple incidents of physical violence and intimidation occurred during the numerous explicitly pro-Hamas protests that took place at Pomona. For example, during one demonstration, protestors surrounded Jewish students who were putting up posters of hostages, physically preventing them from hanging the posters. The protestors then followed the Jewish students and a Jewish adult staff member, obstructed their paths, verbally harassed them, and tore up at least 300 of the Jewish students' pre-approved flyers. Later that day a protestor saw one of the Jewish students and aggressively pushed him into a wall. The Jewish student was then tailed by other protestors who threatened and intimidated him. The school has taken no action and school security has even refused to watch security footage of the protest incident. Most Jewish students sheltered in in their dorms or left campus entirely for their safety, missing classes to avoid the physically hostile demonstrators.

Another protest was so disruptive, including loud antisemitic chants and the blocking of entrances, forcing President Starr to cancel her Family Weekend Address. During another protest, when a student tried to move past the demonstrators to attend the Harry Potter Dinner, an annual Pomona tradition, the demonstrators blocked and grabbed him. Protestors have also disrupted and harassed prospective student tours to such a degree that one prospective student started sobbing. The message was clear: Jewish families and Jewish students are not welcome at Pomona. During a recent protest, President Starr had to call the police to protect herself and the Pomona community at large, resulting in nineteen arrests for criminal trespass and obstruction of justice. This conduct has ensued despite President Starr's warnings to the Pomona community, her attempts to impose order on campus, and her efforts to offer support to the victimized Jewish and Israeli students.

"I have seen anti-Semitism here grow tremendously in the last 3 years," stated Pomona student, Ayelet Kleinerman. "I have raised it with the administration many times, but even when they had the opportunity to take it seriously, they didn't. They've called the police for their own safety, but they are not doing enough to protect Jewish students. From hate speech to retaliation in class and outside it to the mob that is occupying our campus and has taken over much of campus life, Jewish students are scared."

Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin, including discrimination against Jews on the basis of their actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Under the law, harassing, marginalizing, demonizing, and excluding Jewish students based on the Zionist component of their Jewish identity is unlawful. UNESCO has cautioned that "Jew" and "Zionist" are often used interchangeably today in an attempt by anti-Semites to cloak their hate. According to President Biden's U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, released in May 2023, "Jewish students and educators are targeted for derision and exclusion on college campuses, often because of their real or perceived views about the State of Israel. When Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or their identity, when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism. And that is unacceptable."


This is the environment in which Jewish students must attempt to learn

Earlier this week the Department of Education opened an investigation into a complaint filed by the Brandeis Center and ADL about "severe and pervasive" anti-Semitism in Berkeley K-12 public schools.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is an independent, unaffiliated, nonprofit corporation established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all. LDB engages in research, education, and legal advocacy to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses, in the workplace, and elsewhere. It empowers students by training them to understand their legal rights and educates administrators and employers on best practices to combat racism and anti-Semitism. More at

ADL is the leading anti-hate organization in the world. Founded in 1913, its timeless mission is "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all." Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of antisemitism and bias, using innovation and partnerships to drive impact. A global leader in combating antisemitism, countering extremism and battling bigotry wherever and whenever it happens, ADL works to protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all. More at


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