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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Education department opens federal investigation into Tulane after fight at Israel-Palestine protest

The Department of Education is investigating Tulane for possible civil rights violations after pro-Palestine and pro-Israel protestors clashed on Freret Street Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. (Gabi Liebeler)

The Department of Education is investigating Tulane University for a possible violation of civil rights after a pro-Palestine rally on Freret Street in October turned briefly violent and left several students injured. 

The investigation opened on Tuesday. Tulane is now one of dozens of K-12 schools and universities around the country under investigation for complaints of discrimination during the Israel-Hamas war.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights did not respond to a message left Friday. The department does not typically comment on open investigations. 

But in a statement, Tulane spokesperson Mike Strecker said the investigation centers around the Oct. 26 rally that left four people arrested and several students injured. 

“Following this incident, Tulane significantly increased security on campus and undertook other measures, including increasing its teaching and trainings regarding antisemitism,” Strecker said in the statement. “We will fully comply with the OCR’s investigation and look forward to sharing with them the facts of this incident and our continued effort to support a learning environment that is free of harassment and discrimination based on shared ancestry or national origin.” 

It is unclear if a specific complaint prompted the investigation, or if so who filed it. Anyone can file a complaint to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. 

Opening an investigation does not mean that Tulane violated the law. 

Instead, the probe will consider if Tulane violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forces any institution that receives federal funding to protect students from discrimination motivated by race, skin color or national origin. Those requirements include protections for Jewish and Muslim students.  

In a press release last month, the Department of Education said it was making the list of schools under investigation public to increase transparency over complaints related to the rise of antisemitism and anti-Muslim bias on college campuses. 

“Hate has no place in our schools, period,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in the release. “These investigations underscore how seriously the Biden-Harris Administration, including the U.S. Department of Education, takes our responsibility to protect students from hatred and discrimination.” 

The Department of Education will make recommendations at the close of their investigations, and schools could lose federal funding if they refuse to comply, CNN reported.

Attorney Paul Sterbcow represents Dylan Mann, a Jewish Tulane freshman who was injured in the Oct. 26 fight. Sterbcow said Friday he did not know how the Department of Education’s investigation began and “had no idea” it was coming. 

“We know very little,” Sterbcow said in an email. “Based on what I know now of the events of 10/26, any law violation, civil rights or otherwise, was committed by the folks who attacked Dylan with the specific intent to hurt him, none of whom were affiliated with or subject to control by Tulane to our knowledge.”

The incident under investigation occurred on Freret, which cuts through the middle of Tulane’s campus but is public property that the university has repeatedly stressed it does not control.

Four people not affiliated with Tulane were arrested in connection to the Freret rally, which grew briefly violent after a man tried to burn an Israeli flag. Because the Department of Education does not comment on open investigations, it is unclear if any of those arrests are directly related to the probe.  

One of the four arrested faces a hate crime charge, court records show. At least one attacked Mann and broke his nose.

Strecker also said Tulane Students For Palestine — the group that organized the rally — is not a student group recognized by Tulane.

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