Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Office for Civil Rights opens investigation into alleged instances of antisemitism at Whitman

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the campus community was informed via email by Whitman President Sarah Bolton that the college is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for alleged instances of antisemitism on campus. The email stated that the College was informed on Dec. 8 of the investigation, the same day it was added to the OCR’s list of pending investigations. 

The OCR is tasked with investigating alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act.

The OCR’s investigation into Whitman stems from alleged violations of Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of color, race and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Bolton’s Dec. 12 email said that the complaint alleged that the College “failed to respond to incidents of harassment on campus based on national origin (shared Jewish ancestry).”

In an email to The Wire, Vice President for Communications Gina Zandy Ohnstad confirmed that the College provided the documentation requested by the Office of Civil Rights in early January. 

Since Dec. 8, 30 additional educational institutions and school districts have been added to the OCR’s list of open Title VI shared ancestry investigations. An investigation into the University of Washington was opened the same day.

If the OCR finds that an educational institution failed to comply with civil rights laws, the OCR will attempt to negotiate a resolution agreement and outline specific remedial actions. If an institution fails to correct its noncompliance or comply with remedial action, the case is referred to the Department of Justice for judicial proceedings. The OCR has the authority to pull federal funding from institutions that fail to comply with remedial action. 

Although Whitman is a private institution, approximately 7% of the college’s revenues come directly or indirectly from federal funds. In an email to The Wire, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Jeff Hamrick explained that the college is mostly an indirect beneficiary of federal programs. Through programs such as the Pell Grant program or the Direct Loan program, students are provided federal support by the federal government which they use, in turn, to meet their financial obligations to the college.

This investigation is the college’s first since a 2014 investigation stemming from a Title IX complaint. According to Ohnstad, that case was resolved in 2021 with no findings against the College.  

Communication from the President emphasized that OCR investigations can take years to resolve, as evidenced by the seven-year timeline of the last investigation, and no new information is expected in the coming months.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *