The Department of Education announced that it opened an investigation into claims of antisemitic harassment at the University of Southern California (USC), which led a Jewish student government representative to resign in 2020.
The Department’s Office for Civil Rights investigation is in response to a complaint made by the Louis D. Brandeis Center, which claims that USC “allowed a hostile environment of anti-Semitism to proliferate on its campus.”
The complaint was filed on behalf of Rose Ritch, who left her position as vice president of the student body in August 2020. During the nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, Ritch claimed that she was the target of a campaign to have her removed due to her supposed lack of commitment to racial justice.
In an opinion piece for Newsweek, Ritch claimed that she had been harassed and bullied for months because she is “a Jew who supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state—i.e., a Zionist.”
“I was told my support for Israel made me complicit in racism, and that by association, I am racist,” she wrote.
Ritch said she also received abusive comments on social media. According to the Brandeis Center complaint, USC neglected to publicly support Ritch and did not denounce or even acknowledge the harassment she experienced.
The complaint alleges that the university allowed the hostile atmosphere to continue by remaining silent and doing nothing about the discrimination directed at Ritch.
According to a statement released by USC, the university has “made a number of commitments” to fight anti-Semitism, including forging alliances with national groups like the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation, and the American Jewish Committee.
“We are continuing to take these steps to further build on the welcoming environment we have created for our Jewish community. We look forward to addressing any concerns or questions by the US Department of Education regarding this matter,” the university said in a statement.