U of I & other organizations show support for Jewish students

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Jewish United Fund Chicago and other organizations said they want a “safe and welcoming environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students.”

The University and the Fund released a joint statement Monday with Illini Hillel, Hillel International, Illini Chabad, Arnold & Porter and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. In their statement, officials said they know when students choose the U of I, they expect to find the “freedom and security to grow, to explore and to express their whole and best selves.” However, they said not all students get that experience.

They said anti-Semitic acts are “all too common in our country and in our world, and examples of that intolerance have occurred at this university as well. This is unacceptable.”

We deplore anti-Semitic incidents on campus, including those that demonize or delegitimize Jewish and pro-Israel students or compare them to Nazis. This subjects them to double standards that are not applied to others. All Jewish students, including those who identify with Israel or Jewish campus organizations, should be able to participate in campus activities aimed at fighting racism and achieving social justice.

All Jewish students should be able to proudly display religious emblems without fear of being targeted by their fellow students. All Jewish students should feel confident that if they encounter a swastika on campus, the university stands with them in rejecting symbols of hate. Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at this university. We will stand united against all forms of anti-Semitism.

Through working together to develop steps to support Jewish students, faculty and staff, the organizations will now implement the following ideas:

  • The university will create an Advisory Council on Jewish and Campus Life. This group will be made of undergraduate/graduate students, staff, alumni and representatives of the Jewish Community. They will help the chancellor and university leadership identify opportunities to enhance the campus environment and commitment to inclusivity. This group is expected to be in place before the start of the Spring 2021 semester.
  • The university will have focused and regularly recurring educational programs regarding anti-Semitism. Officials said this is part of the university’s efforts to curb hate and intolerance.
  • Procedures and practices will be reviewed, evaluated and –when necessary–revised so they are aligned with values of opposing discrimination and harassment on campus.

Finally, we emphasize our shared commitment to the values of free speech and academic freedom. Freedom of speech is of paramount importance on a college campus. Also paramount is the university’s commitment to never tolerate harassment or discrimination, including against its Jewish students, and to enforce its nondiscrimination policy to the fullest extent. In this as well as all areas, the university is committed to complying with applicable federal, state and local antidiscrimination laws as a state and federally funded institution.

Officials said they know these steps alone will not effectively dispel unwelcoming environments, so they stated they will continue to work on additional steps. They said they will meet before the end of the semester to discuss those plans. “We will work together to demonstrate that the University of Illinois is a place where people of all faiths, races, gender identities, ethnicities, national origins and viewpoints can live, learn and thrive.”

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