Two Penn students filed a lawsuit against the University on Dec. 5, alleging that the University has not sufficiently responded to antisemitism on campus.
The lawsuit, which was filed by College senior Eyal Yakoby and College first year Jordan Davis, alleges that Penn “subjects them to a pervasively hostile educational environment,” according to the preliminary statement.
The students are suing under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on the basis of race, color, and national origin. The students cite antisemitic slurs, including “intifada revolution” and “from the river to the sea,” in addition to antisemitic graffiti around campus, as depriving them of the ability to fully engage in Penn’s community.
A University spokesperson declined to comment, explaining that the University does not usually comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief requiring Penn to end discriminatory policies and practices against Jewish students. It also requests that the University take preventative measures, including terminating allegedly antisemitic faculty and staff, expelling students who engage in antisemitic behavior, and instilling mandatory antisemitism training for Penn community members. The plaintiffs are also seeking damages, including tuition refunds.
Yakoby declined to comment on the status of the case until "the DP corrects their statement on the riot on Sunday." Davis did not respond to The Daily Pennsylvanian's request for comment.
The plaintiffs assert that Penn has failed to enforce its own policies to protect Jewish students from discrimination, harassment, and intimidation. The seven policies they claim the University violated include the Code of Student Conduct, Guidelines on Open Expression, Penn’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Policy, and the Faculty Handbook.
The case docket also outlines over 100 incidents of antisemitism on campus since 2015. Most recently, it asserts that the Palestine Writes Literature Festival set the stage for “the wave of antisemitism” that has occurred this fall. The document cites that 25 of the festival’s speakers — including Roger Waters and Marc Lamont Hill — have been identified as antisemitic by the Anti-Defamation League.
The students are represented by legal teams at the Law Offices of Eric A. Shore and Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP.
Marc Kasowitz, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs and a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres, described Penn as “a pervasively hostile educational environment,” and called on the University to comply with “the Civil Rights Act, Penn’s own purported policies, and elementary human decency” in a statement to the DP.
“Penn must be forced to protect its Jewish students and stop applying a double standard when it comes to anti-Jewish bigotry,” Mark Ressler, another partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres who is representing the students, wrote in a statement to the DP.
1994 University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School graduate Eric Shore, who is also on the case, described the antisemitism at Penn as “heartbreaking.”
“We need immediate, decisive action to reassure every member of our community that they are valued and protected,” Shore wrote in a statement to the DP.
On Nov. 9, the Brandeis Center, a Jewish legal rights advocacy group, filed a federal complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education on similar grounds. The Brandeis Center complaint refers to Penn’s campus as a “hostile environment for its Jewish students” and alleges that Penn has failed to take measures “reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment, and prevent the harassment from recurring.”
The University announced its action plan to address antisemitism on campus on Nov. 1. The plan garnered support and skepticism from members of the Penn community, with some saying that the plan does not provide enough support to either Jewish or Palestinian and Muslim communities on campus.
On Nov. 16, the U.S. Department of Education opened investigations into Penn and six other schools over alleged instances of antisemitism and Islamophobia under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At the time, a University spokesperson told the DP that the University looked forward to cooperating fully.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include a statement from College senior Eyal Yakoby.