DOE opens investigation into discrimination complaint against Harvard by Palestinian students

February 6, 2024

The Muslim Legal Fund of America welcomes the news that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened a formal investigation into the civil rights complaint filed last week against Harvard.  Our complaint addresses Harvard’s failure to protect more than a dozen students from harassment, intimidation, and threats based solely on their status as Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and supporters of Palestinian rights. This investigation signifies an important step toward accountability and justice for these students, who all deserve the right to learn in a safe environment and the freedom to express their views.

“We applaud the DOE’s swift action,” said Chelsea Glover, Senior Civil Litigation Staff Attorney and co-counsel of record on the complaint. “When Harvard students were being harassed and doxxed by their peers and outside parties for months, Harvard officials brushed them to the side and instead met with prominent donors and alumni who encouraged the student harassment and doxxing. These students rightly felt abandoned. Harvard’s primary responsibility should be to its current students, not wealthy donors and alumni with personal agendas that harm students who support Palestinian freedom.”

In recent months, students endured harassment while attending vigils for Palestine, physical assaults while walking to the library, doxxing on campus, stalking by classmates, and racial profiling by professors.  Students who reported the harassment to Harvard administrators received slow and ineffective responses and often met with closed doors, and in some cases threats to limit or retract their future academic opportunities.

The DOE will investigate how Harvard’s actions and inactions contributed to an environment of racism and hatred that escalated on campus. While the DOE considers all complaints it receives, it only opens formal investigations where the allegations merit closer consideration.

“We look forward to these students having their complaints taken seriously and finally investigated fully,” said Civil Litigation Department Head Christina A. Jump. “Harvard failed these students. It did not act when it could have and should have, and allowed a bad situation to get much worse.  We trust that the Office of Civil Rights will do what Harvard did not and create concrete, usable solutions.”