Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce this week urged U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to implement a Trump-era executive order intended to combat antisemitism.
Every year since the executive order was signed, the Education Department has indicated it would develop regulations to comply with it, according to the letter.
“It never has,” the letter stated.
This inaction has left colleges “unprepared for and unwilling to address the fires of antisemitism that have swept campuses this fall,” the lawmakers argued.
An Education Department spokesperson confirmed via email Wednesday that the agency has received the letter.
“Any harassment or discrimination against students based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, such as Jewish ancestry, is unacceptable and prevents our nation’s learners from achieving their full potential in the classroom,” the spokesperson said.
The Republicans’ letter comes amid spiking antisemitism and Islamophobic acts across U.S. colleges in the wake of the latest Israel-Hamas war.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover discrimination based on religion. However, in late 2019, then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order stating that discrimination against Jewish people may violate Title VI if it is based on their race, color or national origin.
“It shall be the policy of the executive branch to enforce Title VI against prohibited forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI,” the executive order stated.
The U.S. Department of Education plans to amend its regulations in response to the executive order, though an online notice said it doesn’t expect to craft new language until December of next year.
However, an Education Department spokesperson said Wednesday that the agency is “working tirelessly to ensure that this rulemaking process is completed as soon as possible and anticipates completion well before December 2024.”
In the meantime, the Education Department will continue adhering to the executive order, the spokesperson said.
A 2021 document from the Education Department says that the executive order does not change how its Office for Civil Rights handles discrimination complaints involving allegations of antisemitism.
“OCR has long recognized that anti-Semitism may violate Title VI,” the document said, citing guidance issued in 2004 and 2010. Those documents explain that Title IV protects against discrimination based on students’ “actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.”