The U.S. Education Department announced on Tuesday that it is launching investigations into six universities, including Rutgers, for ethnic discrimination. The other universities under scrutiny for potential violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act are Stanford University, UCLA, the University of California, San Diego, the University of Washington, and Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
Title VI explicitly prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin, inclusive of shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. However, specific details leading to these new investigations have not been disclosed, and the Education Department doesn’t comment on ongoing investigations.
Rutgers University said it will “fully cooperate” with the federal investigation.
The action by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights follows similar probes initiated in November into several other prestigious institutions, including Harvard University, Cornell University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Lafayette College, Wellesley College, and the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, as well as the Maize Unified School District in Kansas.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that the priorities of these investigations are to safeguard students on campuses, protect free speech, and ensure transparency in the inquiries.
The backdrop of these investigations includes numerous incidents reported at U.S. schools following Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, some of which have resulted in arrests.
Rutgers-New Brunswick on Tuesday said that it has suspended Students for Justice in Palestine. The “interim suspension” is based on multiple complaints alleging the group’s involvement in disrupting classes, programs, meals, and student study sessions, as well as accusations of vandalism during an event at the Rutgers Business School, all in violation of the University Code of Student Conduct.
The suspension policy of Rutgers University allows for such action against a student organization when its activities are deemed to pose a “substantial and immediate threat to the safety and well-being of others,” according to the university’s statement.