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E&W, E&C Republicans Press HHS Secretary Becerra on Preventing Civil Rights Violations at Universities Receiving NIH Grants

Inquiry Part of House-Wide Effort to Combat Rise of Antisemitism on College Campuses

WASHINGTON –In a new letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, House Education and the Workforce Committee (E&W) Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Subcommittee on Higher Education & Workforce Development Chair Burgess Owens (R-UT), along with House Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C) Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), E&C Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and E&C Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffth (R-VA), raised concerns over how HHS is ensuring that research universities are preventing harassment and discrimination—particularly against individuals of Jewish faith and heritage. The Chairs note in their letter that colleges or universities that violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can ultimately lose Federal funding.

The investigation comes as part of Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) House-wide effort to crack down on antisemitism on college campuses.  


“We are troubled by the fact that colleges and universities that are recipients of massive amounts of Federal research grants from NIH are actively fostering antisemitism on campus and failing to protect Jewish students, faculty, and support staff. Failing to comply with basic safety protections for members of their communities, no matter the cause, may be grounds for disqualification of universities and colleges from receiving Federal funds. Congress has an obligation to ensure compliance with Title VI. If Congress determines an institution of higher education is in violation, we may consider rescinding research and development funds previously appropriated.” 


  • Starting in April 2024, antisemitic, and at times violent, protests broke out across campuses at several prominent universities—including Columbia University, the University of Southern California (USC), the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), George Washington University (GWU), Harvard University, and Yale University—resulting in unsafe learning and research environments for students, faculty, and staff, especially for those of Jewish faith and heritage.    
  • Beginning on April 17, 2024, an encampment sprung up on Columbia University’s campus with hundreds of protestors and tents.  
    • Protestors vandalized the campus—including residence halls—with banners and signs containing antisemitic sentiments and even support for the terrorist organization Hamas. 
    • Despite over 100 arrests by police, the protests progressed to the occupation of a campus building and physical attacks on Jewish students—leading campus officials to move some classes online. 
    • Professors at Columbia University have openly made antisemitic and even pro-Hamas statements, adding to the harassment of Jewish students.  
    • A prominent rabbi at Columbia University also warned Jewish students to remain off-campus due to fears that the university and New York City police could not keep students safe.  
    • Jewish students on campus have expressed concerns over their safety on campus and the mental and psychological toll the hostile environment is taking on their ability to work and learn. 
    • Columbia University—which across its campuses received more than $682 million in grants from NIH in fiscal year 2023—is just the tip of the iceberg as similar events are spreading to other colleges and universities.  
  • USC—which received more than $358 million in NIH funding in fiscal year 2023—is also overrun with students, faculty, and other anti-Israel protests that led the university to cancel its graduation ceremony out of safety concerns.  
    • A protestor at USC was charged with assault with a deadly weapon—showing the threatening and intimidating nature of these protests.
  • UCLA—which received more than $580 million in NIH grants in fiscal year 2023—is yet another example of the impact these actions have on the ability of students—particularly Jewish students—to learn. Protesters at UCLA have blocked off sections of the campus, refusing access to Jewish students seeking to attend their classes. 
    • According to a phone call with UCLA police, the directive from UCLA was to not interfere with the protestors. 
  • Just a few blocks from the White House at GWU—which received more than $73 million in grants from NIH in fiscal year 2023—encampments spread beyond the campus onto public streets, and for weeks no action was taken to clear the encampments. 
  • At both Yale University—which received more than $621 million in grants from NIH in fiscal year 2023—and Harvard University—which received more than $400 million across its campuses in grants from NIH in fiscal year 2023—concerns about antisemitism circulated even before the protests erupted.
    • Dozens of protestors were arrested after setting up an encampment at Yale University and parts of Harvard University have been closed, with classes held remotely in response to hundreds of protestors gathering on campus. 
  • Several lawsuits have been filed against these universities alleging violations of civil rights protections and failure to provide a safe environment, and the U.S. Department of Education has opened investigations into several colleges and universities—including Columbia University—for potential civil rights violations. 
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), colleges and universities are prohibited from discriminating based on a variety of categories—including national origin. These laws also protect students who are, or are perceived to be, members of a religious group—including those of Jewish faith.
  • A college or university is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if: 1) there is harassing conduct on the basis of race, color, or national origin that is sufficiently serious as to limit or deny a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program (i.e., creates a hostile environment); 2) a responsible employee of the school knew, or should have known, about the harassment; and 3) the school failed to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent the harassment from reoccurring, and as appropriate, remedy its effects. 
  • According to NIH’s Grant Policy Statement, any institution receiving Federal funds must assure work environments are free of discriminatory harassment and are safe and conducive to high-quality work. 
  • HHS’s OCR is responsible for ensuring that institutions that receive Federal financial assistance comply with Title VI as well as other civil rights laws.  
  • Colleges or universities that violate Title VI can ultimately lose Federal funding.  

CLICK HERE to read the full letter.


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