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Two students claim the University of Pennsylvania has violated the Civil Rights Act by not protecting Jewish students from antisemitism on campus

Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Two Jewish students from the University of Pennsylvania have filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Ivy League institution, alleging it “has transformed itself into incubation lab for virulent anti-Jewish hatred, harassment and discrimination.”

In their suit, filed Tuesday in the US District Court For the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the students claim that the university is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for failing “to remedy the hostile environment on its campus,” which has “placed plaintiffs and other Jewish and Israeli students at severe emotional and physical risk.”

“We are aware that a complaint was filed but have not had an opportunity to review it. We don’t comment on pending litigation,” a university spokesman told CNN.

The suit mentions several incidents on campus from before and after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel when it says the university failed to enforce its own policies and protect Jewish students.

According to the suit, since the October 7 attack,“many have engaged in harassment and violence against Jewish students in support of Hamas’s attack and in condemnation of Israel’s self-defense response.”

One of the plantiffs in the lawsuit says that on October 9, while walking on campus wearing garb that identified her as Jewish, including a Star of David, she walked by a group of pro-Palestine protestors.

One of the protestors yelled to her, “you are a dirty Jew, don’t look at us,” she said.

Other protestors joined in, taunting Davis with: “keep walking you dirty little Jew,” “you know what you’ve done wrong,” it says.

The suit claims “Jewish students have been forced to endure deliberate and targeted harassment by Penn’s faculty.”

“Penn has issued at least seven policies designed and intended to protect students from discrimination, harassment, and intimidation,” the suit says, adding that the university’s “assertions, assurances, and representations have proven false. As alleged in detail herein, Jewish and Israeli students are routinely targeted for antisemitic discrimination, harassment, and intimidation, without consequence, by their peers and professors.

The students are asking the court to prevent Penn from establishing, maintaining or executing policies that “penalize or discriminate against Jewish students,” including the termination of “deans, administrators, professors and other employees responsible for the antisemitic abuse permeating the school,” the suspension or expulsion students involved in antisemitic conduct, the addition of antisemitism training for the university community and compensatory and punitive damages.

The suit comes amid turmoil at the university that has put a cloud over President Liz Magill’s future, after her testimony during a House hearing on campus antisemitism was widely condemned as insensitive to the concerns of Jewish students, leading to widespread calls for her ouster and an emergency college trustee meeting.

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