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Legal Action Unveiled: Trio of Jewish Students Launch Lawsuit Against New York University, Alleging Inadequate Response to Antisemitism

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In a recent legal development, three junior students at New York University—Bella Ingber, Sabrina Maslavi, and Saul Tawil—have filed a lawsuit alleging that the university violated their civil rights by inadequately addressing discrimination and harassment against Jewish students. The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, asserts that NYU failed to enforce its anti-discrimination policies, creating a hostile educational environment. The students claim that they, along with other Jewish students, faced "pervasive acts of hatred, discrimination, harassment, and intimidation," violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The legal action argues that there has been a consistent rise in antisemitic incidents at NYU over the past decade, and the university neglected to uphold its own policies safeguarding Jewish students. The complaint details instances of verbal and physical harassment, threats, and intimidation, accusing NYU administrators of ignoring, delaying, or gaslighting their complaints since the October 7 Hamas terror attacks in Israel.

One specific incident cited in the lawsuit occurred on October 17. Saul Tawil, returning from a demonstration, witnessed a confrontation on campus steps. Attempting to document the harassment, Tawil was confronted by individuals wearing keffiyehs, who forced him to delete a video, shouting antisemitic slurs. Despite reporting the incident to campus security, Tawil was allegedly told that there was nothing the university could do, and he was referred to a hotline for emotional challenges.

This legal action sheds light on the students' contention that NYU's response to antisemitic incidents has been inadequate, further underscoring the broader issue of addressing discrimination on college campuses.

In response to the lawsuit, John Beckman, a spokesperson for New York University (NYU), asserted that the legal action does not accurately depict the campus conditions and the university's extensive efforts to combat antisemitism. Beckman highlighted NYU's commitment to addressing all forms of hate, emphasizing that the university was among the first in the U.S. to publicly condemn the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel.

According to Beckman, additional New York Police and university officers are now present on campus, and NYU has promptly reviewed and initiated investigations into reported complaints of antisemitism and related misconduct. He expressed NYU's intention to challenge the lawsuit's one-sided narrative, clarifying the university's numerous initiatives to combat antisemitism and create a secure environment for both Jewish and non-Jewish students.

Citing a surge in nationwide antisemitic incidents, Beckman noted a 316% increase since October 7 compared to the same period last year, according to preliminary data from the Anti-Defamation League. The lawsuit claims a more than 40% increase in antisemitic incidents on U.S. college campuses in 2022. The students involved allege being subjected to repeated verbal and physical threats, resulting in trauma that has impacted their academic performance and daily lives.

A substantial part of the legal action revolves around the presence of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on NYU's campus. The lawsuit contends that SJP, a pro-Palestinian group, has engaged in conduct leading to the suspension or removal of chapters at other universities. Specific incidents, including antisemitic remarks and gestures at an October rally organized by SJP, are highlighted in the complaint. CNN has sought comments from both the national and NYU chapters of the organization.

In a strongly worded statement, the law firm representing the three Jewish students, Kasowitz Benson Torres, asserted that New York University (NYU) has "egregiously violated the civil rights" of the students. Partner Marc Kasowitz emphasized the law firm's position, stating, "NYU’s deliberate indifference toward the plight of its Jewish students under siege by egregious antisemitism has been outrageous. We are asking the Court to compel NYU to comply with the Civil Rights Act, its own purported policies, and elementary human decency, which to date the University has failed and refused to do on its own."

The students, represented by the law firm, are seeking redress through a jury trial. They are asking the court to mandate NYU to implement remedial measures, including the termination of NYU personnel and students deemed responsible for the alleged abuse. Additionally, the students are seeking damages from the university. The lawsuit has been officially filed in the US District Court in the Southern District of New York.

While the legal battle unfolds, NYU President Linda G. Mills announced on Wednesday the establishment of a new NYU Center for the Study of Antisemitism, scheduled to open in the fall of 2024. Mills attributed the creation of the center to a recent donation to the school, emphasizing its timely importance. In a statement, she expressed, "This gift comes at just the right time—at a moment that cries out for new study, new insights, and new solutions to combating this age-old hatred." Mills reiterated NYU's unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism and commitment to fostering a campus environment free from bigotry and conducive to respectful study and learning.

CNN's Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

In conclusion, the legal battle between three Jewish students and New York University (NYU) underscores the serious allegations of antisemitism on campus. The law firm representing the students, Kasowitz Benson Torres, accuses NYU of "egregiously violating the civil rights" of the students, citing a deliberate indifference to the reported antisemitic incidents. The students are seeking remedies through a jury trial, requesting the court to compel NYU to comply with the Civil Rights Act and institute measures, including personnel termination and damages.

Meanwhile, NYU President Linda G. Mills announced the establishment of a new NYU Center for the Study of Antisemitism, slated to open in fall 2024, in response to a recent donation. The creation of the center aims to provide new insights and solutions to combat antisemitism, emphasizing NYU's unequivocal condemnation of hatred and commitment to maintaining a campus environment free from bigotry.

As the legal proceedings unfold and the university responds with initiatives to address antisemitism, the case highlights the broader societal challenges universities face in fostering inclusive and respectful environments for all students. The outcome of this legal dispute will likely have implications for how institutions respond to and combat discrimination on college campuses.

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