Double Standards in Colleges Regarding Antisemitism

Elite college campuses—those bastions of “inclusivity” and “tolerance”—have suddenly transformed into just the opposite.

This week, antisemitic posters depicting a skunk in the white and blue of the Israeli flag and a Star of David, were plastered across Columbia University.

Chants of “intifada” still echo through the Morningside Heights campus, where students recently had to pass through an NYPD security check to enter the gates.

A relentless barrage of campus antisemitism that exploded in the wake of Hamas’ October 7th attack on Israel has not let up in the spring semester—and bigotry continues to flourish.

An irony lies in colleges’ double standards. These aren’t schools with track records of taking a stiff-upper-lip attitude towards hateful conduct in the name of free speech.

In fact, they’ve done just the opposite. American colleges and universities have been so gung-ho in their fight against hateful conduct that they’ve adopted countless policies to fight bias—but suddenly, in the post-October 7 era, those seem not to apply.

Antisemitic posters were recently plastered around Columbia University’s campus, depicting a skunk with an Israeli flag.

Jewish students, understandably, feel particularly unprotected.

“Antisemitism has gone from a problem to a crisis, and now it’s just gotten to a point where there is no business as usual. If you’re a Jew at one of these schools, then you have to do something,” Eyal Yakoby, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Post.

He’s suing his university for allowing antisemitism to flourish on campus, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Shabbos Kestenbaum is similarly suing his school, Harvard University.

Kestenbaum reports the mistreatment has not let up in the spring semester. He shared photos with The Post late last month of defaced Hamas hostage posters on campus, which were graffitied with references to Jeffrey Epstein and accusations that Jews were responsible for 9/11.

Missing posters for people taken hostage by Hamas were defaced on Harvard’s campus last month. Shabbos Kestenbaum/X

“Even before [fall] semester, there were always incidents of antisemitism. But [fall] semester is when I think most students realized that it wasn’t isolated incidents but a systemic problem,” Yakoby said.

The absurd irony is that these schools have been on a decades-long mission to stamp out hate on campus—even if it means treading on free speech in the process.

Since the 1990s, trigger warnings, vague speech codes, safe spaces and bias-response teams have been introduced by administrators concerned with fighting prejudice.

University of Pennsylvania student Eyal Yakoby (center) is suing his college over antisemitism. house.gov

Oftentimes these mechanisms get abused. Students and faculty have been disciplined for all sorts of transgressions deemed hateful—from using a Chinese word that sounds like a racial slur in English, to refusing to grade non-white students more leniently following the death of George Floyd, and even just using the term “trap house.”

Today more than half of colleges have a bias-response team and 85% have speech codes that tread on free speech rights to protect students from bigotry.

With all these measures in place, how is it possible that 73% of Jewish students say they’ve witnessed antisemitism on campus this school year? Where have all these fancy administrative mechanisms gone.

Standoffs between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine students continue to rage on at Columbia University. Getty Images

Why do the rules suddenly not apply?

As a free speech advocate myself, I believe that speech—even repugnant speech—that does not reach the threshold of harassment or incitement should be protected on campuses. I’ve long railed against trigger warnings, safe spaces and other policies that stifle speech.

But two things can be true at once: Anti-hate policies have been detrimental to campus free speech for decades, yet their sudden abandonment is revealing.

Shabbos Kestenbaum is suing Harvard University for its failure to protect Jewish students. shabbi.kestenbaum/Facebook

I most certainly commiserate with Jewish students who feel betrayed by their colleges that have left them feeling selectively unprotected.

“Words can’t express my sense of betrayal, my disappointment, my anger. This sense of abandonment is really palpable, and it’s been detrimental not only to my mental health but to my academic career,” Kestenbaum told The Post.

It’s truly an incredible turn of events. In the course of just a couple months, colleges have suddenly abandoned their overzealous campaigns against hate, and now remain agnostic to rampant antisemitism.

That double standard should make us all think twice.

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