Far-Right Media Complaint Incites Federal Title VI Investigation Into Swarthmore College

A view of clothier hall at swarthmore at night, amidst investigations at the institutions.
Courtesy of Melanie Zelle

This article was previously published on our website. It has been updated with a statement from the college.

Swarthmore College is facing a Title VI investigation surrounding complaints of discrimination “on the basis of national origin (shared Jewish ancestry),” according to an email sent on March 8 by Acting Co-Presidents Rob Goldberg and Tomoko Sakomura. 

Title VI is the portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on various grounds, including race and religious affiliation, in institutions that receive federal funding. Although Swarthmore is a private college, it receives government funding, including 4.7 million dollars in reported research grants for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Goldberg and Sakomura’s email stated that the college, as of March 8, has not yet received the complaint from the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and therefore does “not know the specific allegations made against the college.” 

“We are committed to complying with the law and the important anti-discrimination protections it affords,” the email read. “We will, of course, cooperate with the DOE as it conducts its review.” 

The email also referenced the large number of educational institutions facing over 100 similar investigations in the United States. Included in the list linked within the email are bastions of higher education such as Harvard University, Yale University, and MIT, as well as individual public school districts. 

According to Campus Reform, a far-right media organization focusing on college news, the complaint was made by Campus Reform’s Editor-in-Chief Zachary Marschall

“The complaint states that pro-Palestine student groups have created a hostile campus climate for Jewish students, and accuses Swarthmore of doing little to address it,” an article published by Campus Reform on March 4 read. “It cites multiple incidents, including one where the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter called Hamas terrorists ‘martyrs’ and affirmed the right of ‘right of Palestinian people to resist.’” 

Campus Reform’s article also mentions the projection of the phrase ‘“globalize the intifada’ onto a campus building in late February,” referencing SJP’s projection of messages calling for divestment from Israel on Feb. 22. It is unclear whether or not this event is included within the Title VI complaint against the college. 

Marschall has previously filed similar Title VI complaints against other institutions, including Northwestern University, Arizona State University, Brown University, and Temple University. Between November 2023 and January 2024 alone, he opened twenty Title IV complaints on the basis of national origin, according to an op-ed written by Marschall published in the conservative news outlet The Washington Examiner. 

In the op-ed, Marschall claims that anti-racism and critical race theory are “innately antisemitic” and that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices have “been the leading force in implementing them across higher education.” 

“Like the Committee on Public Safety, which sent people to the guillotine during the French Revolution, DEI offices use their nice-sounding name to hide their atrocities,” read the op-ed. “DEI’s agenda to advance indoctrination, activism, and ignorance among college students fuels the antisemitic agenda that thrives on campus in the shadows of “anti-Israel” or “anti-Western” critiques. It is how antisemitic movements, such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, are able to take hold.”

As of March 20, the college has still not received the complaint from the DOE’s OCR, according to Vice President of Communications Andy Hirsch.

 “Though we requested a copy of the complaint as soon as we became aware of it, we have not yet received it, and therefore I do not have more to say beyond what Acting Co-Presidents Tomoko Sakomura and Rob Goldberg shared with the campus on March 8,” he said. “We are fully committed to complying with the law and fostering an environment free of intimidation, harassment, and discrimination.” 

This is a developing story, and updates will be added as new information is available.

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