Department of Education and Brown University reach agreement on antidiscrimination efforts

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced Monday that it entered into an agreement with Brown University to make sure the school is in compliance with federal law barring discrimination and harassment against students of Jewish, Palestinian, Arab and Muslim ancestry.

A complaint was filed against the university in December, according to the department.

Brown officials said the school voluntarily agreed “to clarify and enhance existing policies and procedures related to the resolution of discrimination and harassment complaints, including those related to antisemitism.”

The university denied that it violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when handling matters alleged in a complaint which it said had been filed by the editor of an online media outlet with no affiliation with Brown or presence on campus.

As part of the resolution, Brown agreed to continue efforts to conduct nondiscrimination training for members of the campus community.

The Office of Civil Rights investigation confirmed the university has taken what it described as notable steps to support a nondiscriminatory campus environment including providing student and staff workshops on combating antisemitism and combating anti-Muslim hate.

According to the investigation, the school received some 75 reports of alleged antisemitic, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Muslim harassment against students from October 2023 through late March 2024, but appeared to take no or little action in response other than to acknowledge receipt of the reports, list support resources, and request to meet with the those making the complaints.

These reports include allegations students pointed at a Jewish classmate’s Star of David jewelry and yelled “Zionist pig Jew;” a Palestinian-American student’s roommate berated them about their Palestinian-American identity; and students blocked a Jewish classmate from attending a pro-Palestinian rally.

During the investigation, the university revised its practices including focusing on protecting the safety of its community, in particular the needs and safety of its students, faculty, and staff who are Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim, Jewish, have ties to the region, and are feeling affected by current events.

“I commend Brown University for assessing its own campus climate and undertaking responsive reforms to comply with Title VI, in addition to the terms it agrees today to undertake in response to OCR’s investigation,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon said.

According to Brown officials, many of the required actions outlined in the agreement were already underway by the school.

In some cases, the school agreed to further enhance and clarify its existing policies and procedures. In other cases, Brown agreed to expand previously announced efforts, such as broadening the scope of training on nondiscrimination and harassment, school officials said.

“The university is satisfied that the voluntary resolution with OCR enforces and reaffirms Brown’s commitment to strengthening our policies, systems and operations to ensure a campus environment where students, faculty and staff are safe and supported,” said Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, and interim vice president for campus life.