The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

U.S. Department of Education to update civil rights protections due to rise of antisemitism on college campuses

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, leads legislation to defund colleges that “promote antisemitism,” works to stop antisemitism on college campuses.
Carly Schrum
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks during Ashley Hinson’s BBQ Bash at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023.

As tensions surrounding the Israel-Gaza war boil over on college campuses across the U.S., the Biden administration is strengthening protections against antisemitism in the federal civil rights code.

During a press briefing on Monday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the White House is closely monitoring antisemitism and tensions on college campuses across the nation following online threats toward the Jewish community at Cornell University an Ivy League university in Northern New York over the weekend.

The Biden administration highlighted U.S. Department of Education policy changes to specifically add individuals who have Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim ancestry as a protected class under federal civil rights protections in federally funded education programs.

“To the students at Cornell, and on campuses across the country, we’re tracking these threats closely,” Jean-Pierre said on Monday. “We’re thinking of you and we’re going to do everything we can both at Cornell and across the country to counter antisemitism.”

Iowa Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst has been vocal in her support for Israel and has criticized college campuses for allowing pro-Palestine protests following the attack on a southern Israel kibbutz on Oct. 7.

Ernst voiced her support for defunding colleges that don’t stop pro-Palestine protests at a campaign event for U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, in Coralville on Oct. 20.

Ernst also joined Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., in leading a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Education asking them to investigate reports of antisemitism on college campuses around the U.S.

The letter included reports of Jewish students being singled out by professors and pointed to protests that occurred following the Oct. 7 attack on many college campuses.

“We are significantly concerned that your Department is not ensuring American universities are fostering a safe learning environment for all students after the terrorist organization Hamas’ violent attack on civilians, including Americans and Israeli citizens,” the lawmakers wrote in an Oct. 26 letter.

Ernst was an original co-sponsor of legislation that would prohibit the distribution of federal funds to college campuses that allow antisemitism to continue on their campuses.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and a GOP presidential hopeful is the author of the bill and echoed his support at the same Iowa City campaign event on Oct. 20.

“Any university or college that peddles blatant antisemitism, especially after Hamas’ brutal attack on Israeli civilians, women, and children, has no place molding the minds of future generations, never mind receiving millions of taxpayer funds to do so,” Scott said in an Oct. 19 news release.

The Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel, after Hamas militants broke through the Gazan border wall, killed an estimated 1,400 Israelis. According to CNN, more than 7,300 Gazans have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, and the death toll is only expected to climb as Israel starts the beginnings of their ground invasion of Gaza.

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About the Contributors
Liam Halawith
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.
Carly Schrum
Carly Schrum, Photojournalist
Carly is a freshman majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and potentially majoring in sustainability. She works at the Daily Iowan as a photojournalist.