Photo: Paul Morigi

Over 100 faculty oppose nomination of Kenneth Marcus to head Office for Civil Rights

October 27, 2017
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Over 100 faculty oppose nomination of Kenneth Marcus to head Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education

In the last 24 hours, over 100 faculty signed a statement through Jewish Voice for Peace opposing Trump’s nomination of Kenneth Marcus as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Marcus heads the Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law and has dedicated the past decade to defining criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism.

If he is confirmed, this appointment will have catastrophic consequences for free speech and civil rights on campuses across the country,” said Tallie Ben Daniel, JVP’s Academic Program Manager. “His past actions have shown that he is only interested in using the law to punish students he disagrees with.”

Marcus, who in 2011 founded the Brandeis Center with the express mission of promoting “the civil and human rights of the Jewish people,” has tried to silence students and faculty that advocate for Palestinian rights, notably by filing Title VI complaints against campuses that have successfully passed resolutions to boycott Israel. While none of those complaints had merit , he has continued to equate the movement to boycott Israel with antisemitism, casting free speech, criticism and nonviolent resistance as violations of civil rights. Despite positioning himself as a champion of tolerance and liberal values, in 2016 Marcus refused to share a stage with Dima Khalidi, the Executive Director of Palestine Legal.

“Mr. Marcus has distinguished himself as one of the leading architects of an effort to malign any criticism of the state of Israel as anti-Semitic, and has served as a mastermind for the vilification of Muslim and Arab students in campuses across the country. This appointment should concern anyone who treasures the values of diversity, equality, and critical thinking in educational settings,” said Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School.

Marcus’ nomination is the latest in an ongoing campaign to equate criticism of the Israeli government with religious discrimination, a campaign that has proven to violate the First Amendment rights of students and faculty. Last year, the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” failed in Congress on free speech grounds, and the American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a federal lawsuit arguing that a Kansas law requiring all state contractors to certify that they are not boycotting Israel violates the First Amendment.

Additional resources:

ACLU letter to members of Congress

Kenneth Stern’s editorial



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