Brown reaches settlement on Title VI complaints

July 9, 2024
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The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has settled with Brown University over the institution’s handling of about 75 antisemitic or Islamophobic incidents reported between October 2023 and March 2024, the office announced Monday. OCR criticized Brown for failing to complete investigations and, in some cases, abandoning complaints when the complainant did not respond to the university’s emails.

In a letter to Brown president Christina Paxson, the OCR detailed several complaints that the university failed to investigate, including one in which a Jewish student said they were called a “Zionist pig Jew” and another in which a Palestinian student said they were aggressively accosted by another individual.

According to OCR, Brown, which received significant attention for pro-Palestinian protests on its campus—two of which ended in arrests this fall—failed to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that requires colleges that receive federal funding to protect their students from discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or shared ancestry. By neglecting to follow up with complainants, the office said, Brown failed to fulfill its obligation to respond to, investigate and remedy complaints.

“OCR is concerned that the University may have conditioned a fuller Title VI response on replying to the University’s outreach emails, rather than on assessing if the reports constituted notice of a hostile environment requiring additional steps to redress the specific problems raised and whether they individually or cumulatively raised possible hostile environments based on shared ancestry requiring redress,” the office wrote to Paxson.

It’s the latest settlement OCR has reached with a university over shared ancestry violations of Title VI since the Israel-Hamas war’s onset. In agreements with City University of New York, the University of Michigan and Lafayette College, the office reported similar shortcomings, critiquing the institutions for subpar or inconsistent responses to complaints.

Brown already sought to remedy its Title VI process in February, releasing a new policy that says if a complainant does not opt to move forward with an investigation, a newly created campus Office of Equity Compliance and Reporting will take on the role of the complainant.

While OCR commended the university for being proactive with policy changes, new initiatives surrounding Title VI education and new trainings related to antisemitism and Islamophobia, it questioned whether the policies would sufficiently cover Title VI complaints from individuals not affiliated with the university.

Under the agreement between OCR and Brown, the university’s next steps will include continuing to review its policies and procedures, conducting annual antidiscrimination trainings, maintaining records related to Title VI complaints, conducting a review of the university’s Title VI responses, and creating an action plan based on the results of a campus climate survey about shared-ancestry discrimination.

“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,” Russell C. Carey, Brown’s executive vice president for planning and policy and interim vice president for campus life, said in a statement released by the university Monday.



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