UC Berkeley is under federal investigation over the recent disruption of an Israeli speaker

by ANDREW LAPIN at jta.org

(JTA) — The violent disruption to an Israeli speaker’s appearance on campus last month has triggered negative headlines and a criminal investigation at the University of California, Berkeley. Now, the school is facing a federal discrimination investigation, too.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the investigation into Berkeley’s handling of antisemitism on Tuesday, just a week after the incident — in one of the clearest signs yet that the department is moving unusually swiftly in responding to campus discrimination claims involving the Israel-Hamas war.

The department’s Office of Civil Rights announced the Title VI “shared ancestry” investigation at Berkeley along with four other new investigations joining a quickly growing list of discrimination claims since Oct. 7. The department does not reveal publicly why it is investigating a particular school, but a spokesperson for the university confirmed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that its investigation “has to do with the events of February 26th.”

On that day, hundreds of violent anti-Israel protesters on campus forced the cancelation of a planned lecture by Ran Bar-Yoshafat, an Israel Defense Forces reservist and senior leader at the Kohelet Policy Forum, which backed Israel’s recent judicial reforms.

The protesters blocked the venue, smashed windows and, according to witnesses, physically attacked some students who tried to attend the event. University police ordered the venue evacuated at the last minute and said they could not guarantee student safety.

The investigation timeline is notable because, although the department has vowed to open every Title VI complaint it receives for investigation regardless of merit (and has opened many related to antisemitism since Oct. 7), it has typically taken weeks or even months for a complaint to trigger a response. The swift action in Berkeley comes amid widespread press attention about the incident, which stood out for reports of physical violence.

It was not immediately clear who filed the Berkeley complaint, another piece of information that the education department does not make public.