Jewish employees at Stanford University have experienced severe and persistent anti-Jewish harassment, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
The complaint, which was announced on June 15, alleges that Stanford University’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) division has created and fostered a hostile and unwelcoming environment for Jews in its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
“As counselors, we strongly support diversity, equity and inclusion and are mortified that Stanford University has permitted the DEI program to be perverted so that it accomplishes precisely the opposite of its intended aims,” stated Dr. Ronald Albucher and Sheila Levin in their complaint. “The very program that is supposed to facilitate the full inclusion of all members of the Stanford community is now undermining that goal, perpetrating the very invidious discrimination that it is meant to eliminate.”
Dr. Albucher was the Director of CAPS from 2008-2017. Since 2017 he has worked as a Staff Psychiatrist in CAPS and is also a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School. Ms. Levin worked as the Clinical Care Manager/Eating Disorder Specialist at CAPS for the last 13 years.
According to the complaint, Stanford’s CAPS DEI program has advanced anti-Semitic tropes concerning Jewish power, conspiracy, and control and endorsed the narrative that Jews support white supremacy and contribute to systemic racism. This narrative is inconsistent with DEI principles and undermines the purposes for which DEI programs are properly developed. The complaint further alleges the DEI program refused to address incidents of anti-Semitism, including swastika vandalism. In addition, the DEI program has completely excluded anti-Semitism from the program’s agenda and silenced and intimidated Jews who have spoken up to challenge the program’s failure to discuss incidents of Jew-hatred at Stanford.
For example, in May 2020, during a virtual townhall for the Stanford community, unknown participants hijacked the meeting and shared racist messages that displayed images of swastikas and weapons and used the N-word. This incident caused widespread distress among members of Stanford’s student body due to the racist and anti-Semitic nature of the attack. At the next DEI meeting, DEI committee members addressed the racist and anti-Black content but did not mention the anti-Semitic images of swastikas. When asked about that, the answer was that the DEI committee intentionally decided to omit any mention of anti-Semitism so as not to dominate the discussion about anti-Black racism. This offensive behavior presents staff with the canard that they must choose between opposing anti-Semitism or fighting anti-Black racism. In July 2020, after swastikas were discovered inside Stanford’s Memorial Church, again, the DEI program ignored the incident in its next meeting.
In January 2021, during a presentation to pre-doctoral students with information about CAPS internship and training opportunities, one of the presenters discussed a program that will explore how Jews are connected to white supremacy, and another presenter recommended a book that portrays the Jewish State of Israel as a racist endeavor. On another occasion, a DEI committee member accused Levin of being racist due to her Jewish identity. In addition, DEI committee members made repeated offensive and derogatory remarks toward Levin and Albucher, invoking classic anti-Semitic tropes, using ethnic and racial stereotypes of Jews as well as insults and put-downs about Jews.
For more than a year, Albucher and Levin repeatedly raised concerns to supervisors and Stanford administrators about the harassment they endured on the basis of their Jewish identity and the endemic anti-Jewish hostility in the CAPS DEI program. However, Stanford refused to recognize the problem or take appropriate corrective action to address it.
Albucher and Levin are represented by attorneys from the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Alyza D. Lewin, President of the Brandeis Center noted, “The situation at Stanford is especially concerning because the DEI program trains clinicians who provide mental health counseling to Stanford’s student body. According to CAPS’ leadership, the DEI program is designed to ‘help all staff develop the skills and confidence to engage with students from different backgrounds.’ However, when the DEI program ignores anti-Semitic incidents on the Stanford campus and spreads the anti-Semitic canard that Jews have ‘immense power and privilege,’ it teaches Stanford’s mental health professionals to disregard the mental health consequences of anti-Semitic incidents. This undermines the therapists’ ability to provide appropriate care to Stanford’s Jewish students.”
Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. have skyrocketed over the past month since hostilities erupted between Palestinians and Israel on May 6. In fact, according to Stanford’s Hillel, a Jewish student reported being told by a classmate, “I’m not going to talk to you, Nazi,” after asking a question about a class assignment. In a separate incident, a student was reported saying, “Don’t talk to me if you’re Jewish.”
“We have been deluged with messages from students and professors about incidents of anti-Semitism on campuses across the U.S. It is the worst possible time for Stanford to have decided not to prepare its mental health professionals to deal with this problem,” stated Denise Katz-Prober, Director of Legal Initiatives at the Brandeis Center.