BERKELEY -- The federal government has dismissed allegations that the University of California, Berkeley, failed to effectively respond to claims of anti-Semitism on campus that cited, among other things, pro-Palestinian protests with mock military checkpoints.
In an Aug. 19 letter to the university, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights said the protests were expressions "on matters of public concern directed to the university community." The university announced the Education Department's findings on Tuesday.
"In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience," Zachary Pelchat, the leader of the team tasked with investigating the complaints, said in the letter. "In this context, the events that the complainants described do not constitute actionable harassment."
The complaint the Education Department investigated also alleged that a professor offended a Jewish student when she commented on Israeli air strikes in a world history survey course, and anti-Jewish comments were made at meetings to discuss a student senate bill calling on the university to divest from companies that support Israel's military in the Palestinian territories, according to Pelchat's letter.
Attorney Joel Siegal, who filed the complaint, told the Los Angeles Times (lat.ms/PXFtXq) he's considering an appeal.
The Education Department's findings were consistent with a 2011 U.S. District Court judge's ruling in a case filed by two Jewish students against the university, university officials said.
"The claim that there is a hostile environment for Jewish students at UC Berkeley is, on its face, entirely unfounded," UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said in a statement.
"We will continue our ongoing efforts to protect free speech rights while promoting respectful dialogue and maintaining a campus environment that is safe for all our students," Dirks wrote.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com