Palestinian and Muslim students accuse Harvard of failing to protect them

Complainants faced threats based solely on their identity and support for Palestine, US legal fund says

More than a dozen Palestinian and Muslim students have accused Harvard University of failing to protect them from harassment on campus since October 7. AFP
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More than a dozen students have filed a federal complaint against Harvard University, accusing the Ivy League institution of failing to protect them from harassment and threats “based solely on them being Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and supporters of Palestinian rights”.

The Muslim Legal Fund of America, which filed the complaint on Monday, urged the US Department of Education to investigate the university.

“For months, students at Harvard have been targeted with rampant harassment and racist attacks including doxxing, stalking and assault simply for being Palestinian, Muslim and supporters of Palestinian rights,” the MLFA said.

It said Harvard had responded to requests for help “with closed doors” and occasional threats to “limit or retract the students' future academic opportunities”.

A sharp rise in Islamophobic attacks has been reported in several countries, including the US, since the Israel-Gaza war began on October 7.

Among those who filed the complaint were Muslim students and others who say they have faced harassment for their support of Palestine during on-campus protests.

Also mentioned were Palestinian students with family members in Gaza.

The complaint comes weeks after the resignation of former Harvard president Claudine Gay over plagiarism allegations.

Dr Gay had previously faced pressure to step down after appearing at a congressional hearing on anti-Semitism at US universities, where she declined to give a “yes” or “no” answer when asked whether calling for the genocide of Jewish people violated Harvard's code of conduct on harassment.

During the hearing, Dr Gay said universities have to defend free speech while also combating hate, and added that anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian sentiments were all forms of hate.

Updated: January 30, 2024, 2:30 PM