Home » Another Ivy League institution faces legal action for devolving in ‘cauldron of antisemitism’

Another Ivy League institution faces legal action for devolving in ‘cauldron of antisemitism’

by John Jefferson
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A Jewish student is suing Columbia University for allegedly kicking her out of an academic program after she requested religious and safety accommodations, marking the Ivy League institution as the latest to face legal challenges over antisemitism. 

Mackenzie Forrest attended Columbia’s School of Social Work (CSSW) starting in August 2022 and was subsequently admitted into the specialized Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Program (DBT).

According to the lawsuit, Forrest — a straight-A student — asked her professors if she could participate in classes via Zoom meetings in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel. The campus “devolved into a cauldron of antisemitism” leaving Forrest “feeling physically unsafe,” the Lawfare Project says in the lawsuit.

But instead of granting what Forrest calls a “reasonable accommodation to protect her from the threats,” the administration “grew increasingly intolerant. “In a clear act of retaliation, they began fabricating allegations of her failure to meet program standards to create pretexts under which they could force her out of the DBT program,” the lawsuit says. 

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Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project — a non-profit civil rights firm — who is representing Forrest in the case said the lawsuit is “to ensure consequences for unlawful discrimination” amid an alarming rise in antisemitism on college campuses.

“Jew hatred has risen to alarming heights on American college campuses, and also in k-12 schools. The problem has become systemic and the question is why,” Goldstein told Fox News Digital. 

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Pro-Palestine student demonstrators in NYC

The lawsuit says that Forrest initially encountered antisemitism from her faculty and administration when her request for Sabbath observance accommodations within the DBT program was first met with “outright resistance” and then only begrudgingly and ungraciously “accommodated” by a resentful faculty and administration. 

“The vitriolic and antisemitic environment at Columbia to which Jewish students like Mackenzie have been subjected is utterly indefensible,” said Ziporah Reich, litigation director of the Lawfare Project said. “Mackenzie’s right to an education in an environment where she feels physically safe is a fundamental, non-negotiable right protected by law. The university’s refusal to provide Mackenzie with a basic accommodation to ensure her safety is not only shameful, but a dereliction of the university’s moral and legal responsibilities. Such negligence demands accountability.”

The group is seeking injunctive relief and money damages based on federal, state, and common law claims arising out of the “pervasively hostile environment” Forrest has been subjected to, as well as Columbia’s retaliation against her because of her status as a Jew.

A representative for the university declined to comment, citing pending litigation. 

Columbia is also currently in the cross hairs of House Republicans. Last week, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., sent a letter to the university asking for documents and information relevant to Congress’ investigation into soaring antisemitism.

The documents and information requested are said to relate to “Columbia University’s response to antisemitism on its campus and its failure to protect Jewish students, faculty, and staff.”

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Brooke Goldstein of the Lawfare project

Last year, a Jewish architecture major at Carnegie Mellon University sued the prestigious Pittsburgh institution, alleging a “cruel campaign of antisemitic abuse” carried out by its faculty and administration.

And last month, a group of City University of New York (CUNY) professors sued a teachers union that they say promotes antisemitism, waging a legal battle in which they believe the Supreme Court could be their “only hope.”

Filed complaint to DOE

Earlier this month, Middlebury College, an elite liberal arts college in Vermont faced a formal complaint lodged with the Department of education by a Jewish organization who says the school “has failed egregiously to provide adequate protection for Jewish students seeking to remedy persistent antisemitic bigotry on campus.”

“The importance of civil rights lawsuits on behalf of the Jewish community is to ensure consequences for unlawful discrimination and to set precedents that remediate the problem,” Goldstein told Fox News Digital.

“Every minority community in American history has used the court system to right historical wrongs. Now is the time for a Jewish civil rights movement, with impact litigation, and grassroots mobilization used to finally end Jew hatred in our lifetime,” she added. 

Fox News Digital’s Danielle Wallace and Benjaminn Weinthal contributed to this report. 

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