USC - MNLA staff photo

USC said Tuesday that it has taken significant steps to combat anti-Jewish hatred on campus, as federal civil rights officials prepare to investigate a complaint that the university allowed “a hostile environment of anti-Semitism” to proliferate, resulting in the resignation two years ago of its student government vice president.

Rose Ritch, a Jewish student who in August 2020 resigned as USC’s undergraduate student government vice president, alleged she was targeted on social media due to her identity as a Zionist. In an email sent to the campus community at the time, Ritch said resigning was “the only sustainable choice I can make to protect my physical safety on campus and my mental health.”

The complaint the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate was submitted by The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law on behalf of Ritch.

It alleges that the “discriminatory harassment against Ms. Ritch was so severe and persistent that it created a hostile environment that hindered her ability to continue serving” in the undergraduate student government.

“Although USC was aware of the discriminatory harassment against Ms. Ritch and the hostile environment it fostered, the University failed to take prompt and effective steps to end the harassment or eliminate the hostile environment,” according to the complaint. “As a result of the University’s refusal to protect Ms. Ritch from the discriminatory harassment, Ms. Ritch was ultimately forced to resign from the USG under the mounting pressure of the hostile environment.”

In a statement Tuesday, USC said that over the last two years, it has taken “significant steps” to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish hatred on campus.

Among other things, USC has developed partnerships with national organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation and the American Jewish Committee; expanded the Stronger Than Hate initiative at the USC Shoah Foundation; sent senior leaders to attend the President’s Summit on Campus Antisemitism at NYU (hosted by Hillel International, the Academic Engagement Network, and the AJC); convened the President’s Advisory Committee on Jewish Life at USC; and is participating in AEN’s Signature Seminar Series, according to the university.

“We are continuing to take these steps to further build on the welcoming environment we have created for our Jewish community,” the university said. “We look forward to addressing any concerns or questions by the U.S. Department of Education regarding this matter.”

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