Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Jewish Stanford Mental Health Counselors Allege Workplace Discrimination

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Two Jewish therapists at Stanford University’s mental health clinic have filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission citing workplace harassment for Jewish professionals at the school’s Counseling and Psychological Services office (CAPS).

Psychiatrist Ronald Albucher and eating disorder therapist Sheila Levin said they had been subjected to “severe and persistent” anti-semitic behavior by staff members who continued to downplay discriminatory practices over a considerable length of time.

The two counselors allege that the university did little to assuage their concerns despite having full knowledge of the “hostile and unwelcoming environment” for Jewish employees working with CAPS.

Albucher and Levin’s complaints allege violations of state and federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on religion, race, color, or nationality.

How Things Escalated

It all began towards the end of 2019 when CAPS employees were asked to join weekly seminars run by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program facilitated by fellow psychologists within the clinic. 

Although at first Albucher was excited about the DEI program, things started going downhill soon before the first meeting when participants were asked to read “White Fragility,” the 2018 New York Times bestseller by Robin DiAngelo.

The assignment did not appeal to him, mostly because he believes that the book espouses problematic opinions about race relations in the US. When he expressed his views, several CAPS staff allegedly verbally harassed him. 

“My family has had to contend with white supremacy,” Albucher said, adding that his family members died in the Holocaust. “As a gay Jewish man, I have my own perceptions on white supremacy, and the history of this country,” he told The Jewish News of Northern California.

The complaint also alleges that CAPS staff racially segregated groups on the basis of race while discussing the book. Albucher expressed that he was deeply uncomfortable being a part of discussion groups reserved exclusively for white people. 

Levin, who was also a member of the program, stated that “as a Jewish person, she did not feel an affinity with white identity,” alleging a pattern of anti-semitism within the DEI program.

School Response

The news comes at a time when Stanford is already grappling with online and in-person incidents — resulting chiefly from anti-Israeli animosity in the wake of recent events in Gaza.

Director Rabbi Jessica Kirschner sent out an email detailing the sudden spike in anti-Jewish bias, even citing instances wherein one Jewish student was told, “Don’t talk to me if you’re Jewish.” 

The school said it is looking into the workplace discrimination complaints and has already opened an investigation. 

“We are deeply committed to nurturing a diverse and inclusive work environment, one free from harassment and discrimination of any kind. We value and respect the dignity of every member of our community,” the school told The Jewish News of Northern California.

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