READ: Education Secretary’s Dartmouth Dialogue on Antisemitism and Islamophobia Amidst Israel-Hamas War

Biden administration's Education Secretary Miguel Cardona | Credits: AP Photo
Biden administration's Education Secretary Miguel Cardona | Credits: AP Photo

United States: President Joe Biden’s education secretary planned to meet, on Wednesday, with students at Dartmouth College to discuss antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona held a roundtable including Jewish and Muslim students as part of the recently launched Dartmouth Dialogues, an initiative that aims to spark conversations bridging political and personal divides.

A Consequence of the Israel-Hamas War Fallout

The fallout from the Israel-Hamas war has roiled colleges across the United States, reigniting a debate about free expression. College administrators have battled to define the boundary between political speech and harassment and discrimination, with Jewish and Arab students complaining that their schools aren’t doing enough to safeguard them.

Congressional Hearings and Campus Leadership

The subject gained prominence in December when the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT testified before a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism. When asked by Republican senators if demands for Jewish genocide would violate campus standards, the presidents provided lawyerly responses and declined to state clearly that such speech was prohibited, according to reports by AP.

Their responses sparked weeks of outrage from donors and alums, resulting in the resignations of Liz Magill at Penn and Claudine Gay at Harvard.

Bombing Aftermath

Hamas’ October 7 bombings killed 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and kidnapped approximately 250 more, over half of whom were released following a weeklong cease-fire in November.

According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, Israel’s assault has killed around 23,200 Palestinians, or nearly one percent of the territory’s population, and injured over 58,000 more. Approximately two-thirds of the dead are women and children.

Antisemitism and Islamophobia on Campus

The Education Department has frequently told institutions that they must combat antisemitism and Islamophobia on their campuses or face losing federal funding. In response to antisemitism and Islamophobia allegations following the October 7 assaults, the government has launched civil rights investigations at dozens of schools and colleges, including Harvard, Stanford, and MIT.

Cardona met with Jewish students from Baltimore-area institutions in November and promised to take steps to keep them secure. He then met with representatives from major Muslim, Arab, and Sikh organizations to discuss the growth of Islamophobia on college campuses. The war has also prompted the resignation of two administrative officials.

Tariq Habash Resignation

Tariq Habash, a Biden administration appointee who worked in the Education Department to revamp the student loan system and address higher education inequality, resigned last week. He resigned to protest the administration’s critical military support for the war and how it handled the conflict’s domestic and international consequences.

In his resignation letter, Habash stated, “The Department of Education must play an active role in supporting institutions as they respond to the needs of students, faculty, and staff.” This includes protecting all students who choose to exercise their First Amendment right to nonviolent protest, including expressing sympathy with Palestinians in Gaza.”

Josh Paul, a State Department veteran, resigned in October as the administration escalated weaponry deliveries to Israel.

As the Associated Press reported, During the war’s early months, some administration officials signed petitions and open letters imploring Biden to declare a cease-fire.