Bipartisan Senate Bill Seeks to Combat Rising Antisemitism on College Campuses

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a bipartisan effort to tackle the disturbing rise of antisemitism on college campuses, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Antisemitism Awareness Act on Tuesday. This legislation aims to strengthen the U.S. Department of Education’s ability to address antisemitic incidents in higher education institutions by adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

The move comes in response to a noted spike in antisemitic sentiment and actions following the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7, 2023. Both senators highlighted the urgent need to protect Jewish students from discrimination and ensure their safety and well-being on campus.

The proposed bill mandates the Department of Education to permanently utilize the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism when investigating violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This definition, which has been a part of the department’s investigative framework since 2018, includes examples of antisemitic behavior, providing a clear guideline for identifying acts of hatred and discrimination against Jewish individuals.

The IHRA definition has garnered support at the highest levels of government, including from President Biden’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism and within President Biden’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. It has also been utilized by the State Department since the Obama administration, underscoring its widespread acceptance and the bipartisan nature of efforts to combat antisemitism.

Senators Casey and Scott emphasized the critical role of the Department of Education in investigating and rooting out antisemitism in educational settings. By codifying the use of the IHRA definition, the Antisemitism Awareness Act seeks to equip the department with a robust tool for addressing this form of discrimination.

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The bill has attracted a broad coalition of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, demonstrating a united front in the fight against antisemitism. The bipartisan support for the Antisemitism Awareness Act highlights the shared commitment among lawmakers to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all students, regardless of their faith or background.

As the legislation moves through Congress, its potential implications for higher education policy and civil rights enforcement are significant. By establishing a clear standard for identifying and addressing antisemitism, the Antisemitism Awareness Act represents a crucial step forward in the ongoing effort to eradicate hate and discrimination from college campuses across the nation.

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