Department of Education Dismisses Fall “Steering” Complaint

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Recall last October’s allegation that the chair of Barnard’s Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Rachel McDermott, “steered” a Jewish Barnard student away from taking one of Columbia Professor Joseph Massad‘s classes lest his reportedly pro-Palestinian slant make her “uncomfortable.” The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) began an investigation in response to a complaint from Kenneth Marcus of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, who is connected to both the OCR and the US Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR). In 2006 USCCR investigated Columbia for antisemitism, and maintains a page devoted to receive antisemitism complaints.

Earlier this week, OCR dropped the investigation. In a letter to President of Barnard Debora Spar, the OCR noted that neither the complainant, nor the student, nor the OCR could find evidence contradicting McDermott’s denial of steering.

According to Alyssa Vine, Associate Director of Media Relations at Barnard, “We have received notice that OCR dismissed the complaint as of January 11, 2011. It determined that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the claim, and will take no further action.”

In response to OCR’s findings, McDermott stated, “I am grateful for the overwhelming support I have received from my colleagues, especially those in the Religion and MESAAS Departments, as well as current and former students and many others within the Barnard and Columbia community and beyond.”

DSpar responded, “Professor McDermott is beloved by her students and a highly regarded member of the Barnard community. We were happy to cooperate fully with the Office of Civil Rights and were pleased—though not surprised—to receive this favorable determination.”

In an interview last fall, The Current interviewed Alan Dershowitz, discussing how legal maneuverings such as this steering complaint might “close off the debate” and limit academic freedom.

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  1. Anonymous

    remember the jew who cried wolf?

  2. 2011

    aww. I obviously don't know what happened here, and I'd hate to think that she did steer the student, but Professor McDermott was one of my absolute favorite professors! She's so sweet and caring and genuine, not to mention incredibly knowledgeable. I really can't imagine her doing something like that.

  3. What do you call it

    if you're unfairly prejudiced against 18-wheeler trucks?


  4. Anonymous  

    remember that anti-semitism will NEVER stop jews from being some of the most priviliged and powerful people in the goddam WORLD, and from having huge and vastly disproportionate power in global affairs? yeah, i remember that shit. get over yourself, jewish barnard student. others deal with this discrimination on a day-to-day basis, and that shit will NOT be investigated by the US government.

  5. columbia is just

    full of drama... everybody thinks he she is the shit

  6. Anonymous

    This is one of the dumbest things I have ever read

    • Anonymous

      Bwog, you didn't put my above comment in the right place. I was responding to the post above me. If the user fails the captcha, you need to retain information about the post context and username for resubmission. This is a bug.

  7. Anonymous

    Shocking, we learned that an advisor can legally give advise and not be sued. What is this world coming to.

  8. What ever happened

    to the Jewish girl that wrote anti-semitic shit on her own dry erase board on her door? That was pretty funny stuff.

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