New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

NYU to establish center for antisemitism studies with million-dollar donation

The university announced it will establish a Center for the Study of Antisemitism, set to open in the fall 2024 semester. The announcement comes amid heightened tensions over the Israel-Hamas war on campus.
Kiran Komanduri
(Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

NYU will establish a Center for the Study of Antisemitism next fall funded by a seven-figure anonymous donation, according to a Wednesday announcement from university president Linda Mills. The center will focus on the history of antisemitism, and will also include academic programs aimed at addressing other forms of prejudice and discrimination.

In a written statement to WSN, university spokesperson John Beckman said that NYU has been developing the center for several weeks. He did not say where it will be located, or the exact value of the anonymous donation. 

“NYU has been a leader in addressing antisemitism over the past several years and the creation of this center consolidates that effort into a world-class institution where leading scholars can help inform both the study of antisemitism and programmatic initiatives that will help reduce it,” Beckman wrote. “The center will not only study antisemitism, but will develop solutions to help reduce its appalling prevalence.”

The announcement comes a day after three Jewish students filed a lawsuit against the university, accusing the administration of ignoring instances of antisemitism on campus and violating federal civil rights laws. The lawsuit is calling for NYU to be ordered to suspend or expel students and terminate employees “responsible for the antisemitic abuse permeating the school” following the start of the Israel-Hamas war. The university has denied the students’ claims, and said it has been taking steps to fight antisemitism on campus.

In a press release, Mills said there has been an uptick in antisemitic incidents on campus since the start of the war last month. On Oct. 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas killed about 1,200 civilians and took more than 200 hostage into the Gaza Strip in a violent attack on nearby Israeli towns. In response, the Israeli military launched airstrikes and later initiated a ground invasion in the region, killing more than 11,000 Palestinians so far, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. 

“I have listened to heartbreaking stories from students, faculty, parents and alums,” Mills said in the release. “NYU unequivocally condemns antisemitism and other forms of hate and we are committed to maintaining a campus environment where all can study and learn in an atmosphere of respect and live free from the fear of bigotry.”

Other U.S. colleges have also announced programs to reduce antisemitism on their campuses. Recently, Columbia University, Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania each said they would create task forces aimed at ensuring the safety of their Jewish students, faculty and staff. 

Last week, a pro-Israeli student and a visitor to the university were allegedly assaulted by another student outside Bobst Library, after a pro-Israeli sit-in inside the building. In an Oct. 25 letter, the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life said it has received hundreds of reports of antisemitism since the beginning of the war, and there have also been reports of students facing employment discrimination and being identified online because of pro-Palestinian speech.

Following a series of incidents targeting Jewish students between 2017 and 2019, a student filed a civil rights complaint against NYU, arguing that the university had not properly addressed the incidents. In September 2020, the university reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to update its Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy to prohibit discrimination “based on shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics,” including antisemitism. 

In response to recent safety concerns over incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia, the university increased the presence of Campus Safety officers and police at its Washington Square and Brooklyn campuses. NYU’s administration has also been criticized by students and faculty for its response to the war, having been accused of failing to directly address antisemitic incidents on campus and neglecting its Palestinian community.

“This gift comes at just the right time — at a moment that cries out for new study, new insights, and new solutions to combatting this age-old hatred,” Mills wrote in the press release. “I look forward to applying the center’s findings on our campus and to sharing them with other colleges, universities and communities.” 

Contact Yezen Saadah at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Yezen Saadah
Yezen Saadah, Deputy Managing Editor
Yezen Saadah is a sophomore studying cinema studies, journalism and Middle Eastern studies. He's a lover of cinema, history, art and literature, and he enjoys writing about pretty much anything. If he isn't in the newsroom or at the movies, he's probably just trying to enjoy his day off. Contact him on Instagram @yezen.saadah, Twitter @yezen_saadah and — most importantly — Letterboxd @Yezen, or just send tips to [email protected].

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