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Feds to investigate USC student’s complaint of antisemitism

A sign for the University of Southern California outside red brick campus buildings
The U.S. Department of Education will investigate a complaint filed on behalf of Rose Ritch, who stepped down as USC student body vice president in 2020 and said she faced hateful comments on social media over her support for Israel.
(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)
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The U.S. Department of Education will investigate USC after a Jewish student said she resigned from student government because she endured harassment over her pro-Israel views.

The inquiry by the department’s Office for Civil Rights stems from a complaint by the Jewish advocacy nonprofit Louis D. Brandeis Center alleging the university “allowed a hostile environment of anti-Semitism to proliferate on its campus,” the center said in a statement Tuesday.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Rose Ritch, who stepped down as student body vice president in August 2020. Ritch said she resigned following a campaign to remove her over her alleged lack of commitment to racial justice amid the national outcry over George Floyd’s killing and the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Ritch said she faced hateful comments on social media over her support for Israel. The complaint alleges USC failed to protect Ritch from harassment.

USC said in a statement Tuesday that it has “made a number of commitments” to combat antisemitism, including developing partnerships with national organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation and the American Jewish Committee.

The two USC students didn’t know each other — one a student government leader who is Jewish, the other a Black undergraduate who wanted to impeach her. But they collided over racism, anti-Semitism and Zionism in a brouhaha that has roiled the school, sparked social media attacks and prompted new debate over age-old questions about the line between free speech and hate speech.

Oct. 18, 2020

“We are continuing to take these steps to further build on the welcoming environment we have created for our Jewish community. We look forward to addressing any concerns or questions by the U.S. Department of Education regarding this matter,” the statement said.

Ritch wrote in a 2020 Newsweek op-ed that some of her fellow students launched an impeachment campaign because she was “a Jew who supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state — i.e., a Zionist.”

“I was told my support for Israel made me complicit in racism, and that by association, I am racist,” Ritch wrote.

USC failed to speak out publicly in support of Ritch and did not condemn or acknowledge the harassment that she faced, the Brandeis Center said in its complaint.

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“Through its silence and inaction, the University tolerated the discriminatory harassment directed at Ms. Ritch, thus emboldening it and leaving Ms. Ritch vulnerable to the negative effects of the hostile environment that the harassment created at USC,” the complaint said.

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