Date July 8, 2024
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Brown reaches agreement that resolves OCR complaint alleging antisemitism

Voluntary agreement with U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights enhances many efforts already underway at the University.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education announced on July 8, 2024, that Brown has voluntarily agreed to clarify and enhance existing policies and procedures related to the resolution of discrimination and harassment complaints, including those related to antisemitism.

While entering the agreement, the University denied that it violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when handling the matters alleged in a complaint filed with OCR that prompted the agreement. The complaint had been filed by the editor of the Campus Reform online media outlet, who has no affiliation with Brown or presence on its campus.

As part of the voluntary resolution agreement with OCR, the University agreed to continue efforts underway to conduct nondiscrimination training for members of the campus community. The University agreed to begin conducting this annual training for all employees and students in the 2024-25 academic year. In addition, employees responsible for investigating complaints of discrimination and harassment will continue to receive investigator training and that training will take place annually.

Many of the required actions outlined in the resolution agreement were underway and previously announced by the University. In early February, the University announced a range of new and ongoing actions to confront discrimination, harassment and strengthen the community.

“We have an obligation to both secure the safety and well-being of all members of our community by addressing harassment and discrimination, and also to remain steadfast in upholding the core academic values at the heart of what we do every day,” President Christina H. Paxson wrote to the Brown community on Feb. 5, 2024.

The programming and initiatives announced in February served to strengthen education and understanding about Title VI (the federal law prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or national origin); streamline and clarify processes for addressing unacceptable behavior under Brown’s policies; create opportunities to engage in constructive dialog across difference; and support the University’s ongoing commitments to academic freedom and freedom of expression.

This included the creation of the Office of Equity Compliance and Reporting, improved and consolidated incident forms for reporting bias, harassment and discrimination, and clarifying the complaint resolution process for reports of incidents. Brown also announced in February the pending development of education and training on nondiscrimination and harassment principles, as well as steps to clarify guidance about appropriate responses to protected speech that some may find offensive. Augmenting Brown’s suite of campus climate surveys was also part of these efforts.

In its press release announcing the resolution agreement with the University, OCR stated the following:

“OCR commends the University for revising its practices during the pendency of this investigation and for working to fulfill key priorities it identified to ensure a non-discriminatory environment for the Brown community, including the University’s stated goal of taking the strongest possible stance against any form of discrimination and harassment including, but not limited to, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hate, or other unlawful discrimination based on actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics or citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identity. OCR determined that monitoring the University’s fulfillment of its key priorities through the following terms [as elaborated upon in the release online] of the resolution agreement announced today will effectively ensure the University’s compliance with Title VI not to discriminate based on shared ancestry… .”

In some cases, the University agreed to further enhance and clarify its existing policies and procedures. In other cases, the University agreed to expand previously announced efforts, such as broadening the scope of training on nondiscrimination and harassment. The agreement also establishes timelines and reporting requirements through the life of the agreement.

“The University is satisfied that the voluntary resolution with OCR enforces and reaffirms Brown’s commitment to strengthening our policies, systems and operations to ensure a campus environment where students, faculty and staff are safe and supported,” said Russell C. Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, and interim vice president for campus life. Carey signed the agreement on behalf of Brown.