J Street U Students Deeply Frustrated by ADL’s Campus Antisemitism Report Card

April 15, 2024

The J Street U Student Board released the following statement:

As an organization comprising primarily Jewish students across the country, we are deeply frustrated by the manner in which the Anti-Defamation League has graded 85 universities in their Antisemitism Report Card.

Our students know the extremely serious issues on campus all too well, with extremists on both the right and left fuelling antisemitism to pursue their own ideological goals. Far-right conspiracy theories have led to violent attacks on our community, and right-wing leaders continue to use the issue of antisemitism itself to further their agendas – such as attacking Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs which, at their best, support Jewish students and other minorities.

We share the goal of ensuring American universities are safe environments for free and robust debate, and that Jewish students, Muslim students, Israeli students, and Palestinian students – and all other minorities – feel supported and respected as they pursue higher education.

The way in which the ADL has produced their Report Card, however, is counterproductive. It has lacked consultation, is overly simplistic, and adds to division. The report is already being used by right-wing voices to attack DEI programs and paint criticism of Israel as antisemitic.

J Street U students – many of whom are deeply engaged in Jewish life and actively work to address antisemitism on campus – have told us they find the report fear-mongering and lacking in nuance. Students at universities that have received F or D grades have told us they find the rankings detached from reality. They worry some harsh grades not only obscure laudable efforts to combat antisemitism, but will also scare off prospective students and make it harder to build Jewish communities on campus and address underlying issues.

Many students who engage in human rights advocacy and protests against the Israeli government are deeply concerned by definitions that appear to designate pro-Palestinian activities as inherently antisemitic. In a moment of extreme division and hardship for Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim and Arab students, conflating fair criticism of Israeli policies with acts of antisemitism appears designed to chill free speech and protect the interests of the Israeli government, not students.

Even if we find some criticisms of Israel harsh and worth pushing back on, erroneously attacking them as antisemitic undermines our work to build bridges, hear each other out, and create safe, supportive campuses for all. It weakens our credibility when we seek to build coalitions to call out and confront real cases of antisemitism and bigotry.

We encourage the ADL to listen to students and take a more nuanced approach to this complex issue, and will be seeking to meet with ADL leadership to discuss this further.