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Bipartisan bill aims to fight antisemitism on campus by fortifying civil rights complaint system

By Matt Egan, CNN

New York (CNN) — A bipartisan Senate bill introduced Thursday could make it easier for students to file civil rights complaints over antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses and to hold those schools accountable for protecting students.

The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy and Democratic Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey, would require colleges and universities to report the number of civil rights complaints they receive and the actions they took to address them.

Under the legislation, called the Protecting Students on Campus Act, the Education Department’s inspector general would be required to audit institutions that report high ratios of discrimination complaints relative to their student population.

Colleges and universities would be forced to post links and language explaining to students how to file complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act on their homepages. That 1964 legislation mandates that universities receiving federal funding don’t discriminate against students.

The bipartisan legislation introduced Thursday would also compel the Education Department’s assistant secretary of civil rights to brief Congress monthly on how many discrimination complaints have been received and how long they’ve been pending.

“Amid a despicable rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in our country,” Fetterman said in a statement, “I am proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues to empower students facing discrimination to take action and hold universities accountable in protecting students.”

Since the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel, the Education Department has launched an unprecedented number of Title VI investigations into colleges, including Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University and Stanford.

The new legislation would prevent the Education Department from closing or dismissing complaints that have been resolved by other government agencies.

“No student should be harassed or attacked at school just because of who they are,” Cassidy said in a statement. “This legislation holds colleges and universities accountable and ensures discrimination against students is never ignored.”

Congress has been intensifying its oversight of universities over the past several months.

The House Education Committee is demanding Harvard turn over a mountain of documents on how it has responded to allegations of both plagiarism and antisemitism.

Another House panel, the powerful Ways and Means Committee, threatened on Wednesday to reassess the lucrative tax-exempt status of four universities — Harvard, MIT, Cornell and the UPenn — due to concerns about how they have handled antisemitism on campus.

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