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UW-Madison under Title VI investigation after complaint from conservative watchdog group

The editor-in-chief of Campus Reform, a conservative watchdog group, filed Title VI complaints against several universities, including UW-Madison, for allegedly failing to protect Jewish students from antisemitic incidents.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is among several schools under Title VI investigation by the Department of Education following complaints by conservative watchdog group Campus Reform.

The group’s editor-in-chief, Dr. Zachary Marschall, has filed 21 complaints against various universities.

“I spoke with Jewish students across the country who are too afraid to speak out. I decided to speak for those who face harassment for being Jewish or pro-Israel,” Marschall, an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky, said in a statement to The Daily Cardinal. “I feel a moral obligation to do anything I can to combat antisemitism.”

Campus Reform is a project of the Leadership Institute, a training organization for conservative mobilization founded by conservative activist Morton Blackwell. The organization claims alumni such as Republican U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Dan Crenshaw of Texas. 

The publication published numerous “exclusive” stories on investigations stemming from complaints Marschall submitted, including ones at Binghamton University, Northwestern University and Arizona State University

The Education Department opened a Jan. 29 investigation into UW-Madison’s alleged failure to respond to harassment of Jewish students, according to Campus Reform.

“‘Martyrs’ in this context are terrorists who were killed attempting to murder Jews, and it is obvious that ‘by any means necessary’ includes brutality such as the murder, torture and rape that occurred on October 7,” Marschall wrote in the complaint, according to Campus Reform.

Marschall’s comments don’t account for the fact that some Palestinian groups view the use of martyrs as referring to any Palestinian killed as a result of Israel’s actions. An Al Jazeera report says the term is “used by Palestinians to describe anyone killed by Israelis.”

Students for Justice in Palestine’s UW-Madison chapter affirmed the right of Palestinians to “resist occupation and to pursue liberation” in an October statement.

The complaint falls under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

In a Jan. 29 press release, UW-Madison leaders said they were aware of the complaint and would “cooperate fully” with the investigation.

“Our university must be a safe, welcoming and inclusive space where all students can receive a world-class education without fear of hate, antisemitism or a hostile learning environment,” UW Hillel President and CEO Greg Steinberger said in an email. “The UW administration, its Chancellor and the larger community have been proactive in supporting Jewish life on campus and working in partnership with Hillel.”

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In a Nov. 16 press release, the Education Department reiterated the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to combat rising cases of religious and racial discrimination in K-12 schools and college campuses following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks against Israel.

The department has released a full list of institutions under investigation.

“These investigations underscore how seriously the Biden-Harris Administration, including the U.S. Department of Education, takes our responsibility to protect students from hatred and discrimination,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, said in a statement.

An Education Department spokesperson told the Cardinal the organization does not comment on pending investigations.

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