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Education Department Orders University of North Carolina to Tighten Policies after Anti-Semitism Complaint

(Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

The Education Department has directed the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to tighten its discrimination policies after an anti-Semitism complaint stemming from a rapper’s March performance.

The school has pledged to enhance its anti-bias training and specifically bar anti-Semitic language, committing to making the campus “free from anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination” in accordance with an agreement with the Education Department.

“I reaffirm the university’s commitment to creating a place where every member of our community feels safe and respected and can thrive in an environment free from anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination and harassment,” Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a campus-wide letter Monday that exhorted students and teachers to report discrimination issues.

The agreement ends an Education Department civil rights investigation into potential illegal discrimination on the part of the university without an admission of guilt or official finding by the department. For the next two years, the university is required to hold at least one meeting to address any concerns about anti-Semitism on campus.

The Education Department stated in a November 6 letter that the new measures will “fully resolve the issues giving rise to the complaint.”

The investigation was sparked by a performance by a Palestinian rapper at the school’s March academic conference titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities.” Critics accused the artist of anti-Semitic references in a song, which the university chancellor said made him “heartbroken and deeply offended.” Several weeks after the conference, the Education Department said flyers were found around campus that read, “evil Jewish plot to enslave and kill.”

In April, Republican North Carolina congressman George Holding wrote a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling the federally-funded conference “brazenly anti-Semitic.” The Education Department later threatened to pull federal funding from the group behind the conference, the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, accusing it of emphasizing the “positive aspects” of Islam over other religions.

“Federal grants are not blank checks from public coffers,” said Robert King, the assistant secretary for postsecondary education, “and the department intends to ensure that taxpayer funds are spent in alignment with Congressional directives.”

Funding was ultimately granted to the consortium for next year.

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