Last month, anonymous Jewish George Washington University students and a pro-Israel group accused the university of antisemitism in a complaint filed with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.
This week, Palestine Legal announced it has filed an Office for Civil Rights complaint accusing the university of “anti-Palestinian racism.”
The organization didn’t provide a copy of the complaint, but it said in a news release Wednesday that it’s representing three unnamed students “who have each been the target of anti-Palestinian discrimination and harassment by fellow students, professors, GW Hillel and/or GW administrators.”
“The complaint alleges how, for years, Palestinian students and students perceived to be Palestinian have been denied access to mental health services, falsely accused of committing crimes, disproportionately investigated by campus police, put through months-long disciplinary processes for infractions that non-Palestinian students admitted to and subjected to racist anti-Palestinian comments in class,” the release says.
GW Hillel, an organization for Jewish students, didn’t provide a comment Thursday.
“The university has not seen the complaint referenced,” a GW spokeswoman said in an email. “The George Washington University strongly condemns hatred, discrimination and bias in all forms, and we are committed to fostering an environment in which the entire community feels safe and free of harassment, hostility or marginalization.”
Part of the complaint, according to Palestine Legal’s news release, involves what happened in Lara Sheehi’s class after she invited a guest lecturer to the university. Sheehi, an assistant professor of clinical psychology, is also at the center of the complaint from the pro-Israel group, StandWithUs.
“The [unnamed] student said she felt unsafe in a program that would invite a speaker who endorsed violence against Israeli civilians and who, therefore, may celebrate the murder of her Israeli relatives,” the StandWithUs complaint says. “In response, [during the class] Professor Sheehi called the student’s comment a ‘damaging Islamophobic anti-Palestinian’ comment and added that ‘a stone is nothing compared to an army.’”
The Palestine Legal news release says “anti-Palestinian students took over [Sheehi’s] class the following Monday, making numerous anti-Palestinian statements, including … that Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli army are terrorists.”
The release said the complaint also “explains how GW canceled a virtual processing space for Palestinian students after Hillel (a pro-Israel campus organization) complained.”
Radhika Sainath, senior staff attorney for Palestine Legal, said the space was offered after 2021 Israeli bombings. A student anonymously told Inside Higher Ed that she wanted to use the space after being hit with a tear gas canister and having rifles pointed at her.