November 16, 2020
Joint Statement of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Jewish United Fund Chicago,
Illini Hillel, Hillel International, Illini Chabad, Arnold & Porter, and
the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
Students who choose the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for their college education make that decision with an expectation that they will find the freedom and security to grow, to explore and to express their whole and best selves.
But, sadly, that is not the experience of all members of the student community. Anti-Semitic acts and expressions are all too common in our country and in our world, and examples of that intolerance have occurred at this university as well. This is unacceptable. While the university has taken measures in the past to address this problem, the university must do more.
Over the past several months, and especially over the past few days, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, leaders in the Jewish community and counsel for the Jewish students have engaged in meaningful and productive conversations. While we may not agree on all aspects of these complex and critical issues, we are united in a single view that our shared and common goal must be to support a safe and welcoming environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students at the University of Illinois that is free of discrimination and harassment.
We acknowledge and affirm our shared belief in the rights of all members of the university community to express their viewpoints, identity and lived experiences. Every student should have the opportunity to have a transformative and positive educational experience from the day they arrive to the day they earn their degree. But acts and expressions of anti-Semitism—in any form—actively undermine the educational process and are in direct opposition to our core values.
For many Jewish students, Zionism is an integral part of their identity and their ethnic and ancestral heritage. These students have the right to openly express identification with Israel. The university will safeguard the abilities of these students, as well as all students, to participate in university-sponsored activities free from discrimination and harassment.
We deplore anti-Semitic incidents on campus, including those that demonize or delegitimize Jewish and pro-Israel students or compare them to Nazis. This subjects them to double standards that are not applied to others. All Jewish students, including those who identify with Israel or Jewish campus organizations, should be able to participate in campus activities aimed at fighting racism and achieving social justice.
All Jewish students should be able to proudly display religious emblems without fear of being targeted by their fellow students. All Jewish students should feel confident that if they encounter a swastika on campus, the university stands with them in rejecting symbols of hate. Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at this university. We will stand united against all forms of anti-Semitism.
We agree that our mutual priority must be to continue working together to more rapidly advance clear, concrete and actionable steps to support Jewish students, staff and faculty so their lived experiences match the expectations that brought them to the university in the first place. As a result:
- The university will create an Advisory Council on Jewish and Campus Life that will consist of undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty and alumni, as well as representatives from the Jewish community committed to the principles set forth in this statement. This advisory group will assist the chancellor and university leadership to identify opportunities to enhance the campus environment for all students, faculty and staff, and to advance its commitment to an inclusive community where all feel welcome. The university expects to have the Advisory Council on Jewish and Campus Life in place before the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester.
- As part of its broader and expanding efforts to curb hate and intolerance, and in consultation with the Advisory Council on Jewish and Campus Life, the university will institute focused and regularly recurring educational programming regarding anti-Semitism.
- The university will review, evaluate and, when necessary, revise procedures and practices so they are appropriately aligned with shared values opposing discrimination and harassment on campus, including anti-Semitic actions.
Finally, we emphasize our shared commitment to the values of free speech and academic freedom. Freedom of speech is of paramount importance on a college campus. Also paramount is the university’s commitment to never tolerate harassment or discrimination, including against its Jewish students, and to enforce its nondiscrimination policy to the fullest extent. In this as well as all areas, the university is committed to complying with applicable federal, state and local antidiscrimination laws as a state and federally funded institution.
Though these steps will further our shared goals, they alone will not effectively dispel the environment that many Jewish students have felt to be unwelcoming. Thus, our collective and collaborative efforts will not end with these actions. The university, the undersigned organizations and Jewish students will meet before the end of the semester to discuss additional steps. We will work together to demonstrate that the University of Illinois is a place where people of all faiths, races, gender identities, ethnicities, national origins and viewpoints can live, learn and thrive.