YSU accused of ignoring antisemitism, federal Title VI investigation underway

The Title VI investigation can be seen the U.S. Department of Education's website. Photo by Molly Burke / The Jambar

By Molly Burke / The Jambar

Youngstown State University is under a federal Title VI investigation with the U.S. Department of Education for alleged antisemitism on campus.

The case was filed by Zachary Marschall, an adjunct professor in the Department of Arts at the University of Kentucky and the editor-in-chief of Campus Reform, a self-described conservative news online publication.

According to a statement Marschall gave to The Jambar, he has filed 33 Title VI complaints for antisemitism at universities with the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights since Oct. 7, 2023.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist militant group, attacked the Southern District of Israel from Gaza and killed over 1,000 people on Oct. 7, 2023.

In his statement, Marschall said the complaints have resulted in 13 open investigations with the DOE. He would not elaborate on his complaint against YSU but stated he believes YSU students have been openly antisemitic on campus and the university has failed to address it.

“Youngstown students have felt comfortable to broadcast their antisemitism in public because there are no authorities on campus condemning anti-Jewish discrimination. I’m encouraged by the Title VI process and hope universities including Youngstown realize they need to overhaul how they handle antisemitism on campus. Universities can no longer get away with doing nothing about their students’ and staff’s antisemitic language and activities,” Marschall stated to The Jambar.

The Title VI investigation was filed by Zachary Marschall.
Photo courtesy of finearts.uky.edu

Adam Fuller, associate professor of political science and director of YSU’s Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies, said he believes there is no antisemitic discrimination at YSU.

“I don’t believe that we have a problem here. If there is a problem, I would have probably heard about it,” Fuller said. “I don’t think that this administration is looking the other way when it comes to antisemitism … I just wish that maybe [Marschall] had reached out to me before they filed this complaint.”

Fuller said YSU has hosted several events on campus to bring awareness to Israeli issues, such as hosting a table of Israeli survivors from the Oct. 7 attacks. Fuller also said students “get a very fair assessment of Zionism” in an Israeli politics class he teaches.

“[Campus Reform] didn’t bother to investigate themselves further to look into what is going on at YSU. Had they done that, they would’ve realized that actually this university has taken a lot of steps, especially since Oct. 7, to make sure that antisemitism doesn’t rear its ugly head in any sort of mass level on this campus,” Fuller said.

The case is listed on the DOE’s website, but the file is not available to read unless forced to by a Freedom of Information Act Request. The Jambar has filed an open records request for the documents, but it is currently unknown what the complaint contained.

Fuller said he believes there’s context to the investigation.

“For what I understand, the entire investigation is based on a video on Campus Reform made shortly after Oct. 7. They were on our campus and were asking students about the war over there in Gaza,” Fuller said. “The newly formed Students for Justice in Palestine — one or two of their students was in the video that [Campus Reform] made, and there was one in particular, upon being asked, ‘Do you condemn the actions of Hamas?’— they refused to.”

The video Fuller referenced was posted on Campus Reform on Oct. 19, 2023. He said he believes the interviewee’s comments in the video were “wrong” but were protected free speech.

Omer Genc, a professor of management and marketing and advisor for YSU’s chapter of SJP, which formed in September 2023, said the organization does not discriminate against Jewish people and has invited Jewish speakers to events.

“The goal of this organization was to educate, community, faculty — all stakeholders on campus — about what is happening in Palestine, and we have nothing to do with violence or antisemitism,” Genc said. “I think there was an interview which caused this complaint about the investigation to be done. There have been a lot of articles on Campus Reform about our students, our officers, our organization, myself as well. We tried to contact them because there is a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation in those stories … We didn’t get any response.”

Both Fuller and Genc said they have not been contacted by university officials.

Fuller said while he supports reporting antisemitism at universities, he believes opening the investigation at YSU could result in a “phenomenon of boy who cried wolf,” where “egregious” complaints would not be taken seriously.

“If there is a problem of antisemitism, and if the administration is failing to deal with it, I want that solved. However, I will say, I don’t think the investigation will lead to that conclusion,” Fuller said.

The Jambar reached out to Dana Lantz, the executive director of Equal Opportunity and Human Resources, and YSU President Bill Johnson for comment. University Relations responded with this statement:

“Youngstown State University is firmly committed to maintaining a working and learning environment free of discrimination and harassment of any student, employee or visitor. The university community works to eliminate discrimination and harassment through education, encourages staff, faculty, students, visitors and volunteers to report concerns, and follows up on all complaints. The University will comply fully with all requests from the DOE as it relates to their investigation.”

Continue to follow The Jambar for updates on this story.

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