MidEast

In Historic Settlement, California State University Admits Zionism is Part of Jewish Identity

California State University (CSU) has settled a landmark lawsuit – Volk. v. Board of Trustees – with two Jewish students regarding anti-Semitism, issuing a statement Wednesday acknowledging Zionism’s importance to Jewish identity, the Jewish Journal reported.

Liam Kern and Charles Volk, two San Francisco State University students (SFSU), sued the CSU Board of Trustees and SFSU for allegedly engaging in anti-Semitism against them. The students charged that officials had prevented the campus Hillel chapter from participating in an event called “Know Your Rights.”

Kern and Volk also alleged that the university failed to effectively respond to anti-Semitic incidents on campus – a violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, they argued. The students were represented by The Lawfare Project and Winston & Strawn LLP.

As part of the settlement, CSU agreed to issue a statement affirming “it understands that, for many Jews, Zionism is an important part of their identity” and to protect the rights of all students at SFSU, including Jewish and pro-Israel students.

SFSU must also hire a coordinator for Jewish student life and refer cases of religious discrimination to an outside investigator, in addition to allocating $200,000 toward “educational outreach efforts to support education outreach efforts to promote viewpoint diversity.”

“California State University’s public recognition that Zionism is an integral part of Jewish identity represents a major victory for Jewish students at SFSU and across the country,” Lawfare Project executive director Brooke Goldstein said in a statement. “Today, we have ensured that SFSU will put in place important protections for Jewish and Zionist students to prevent continued discrimination. We are confident that this will change the campus climate for the better.”

A university spokesperson told the Journal, “Today’s settlement in the Volk v CSU case brings an end to what has been a very emotional and challenging issue for all parties involved. We are pleased that we reached common ground on steps for moving forward. The settlement contains items related to student programming; education and training efforts; review of policies and procedures; and opportunities for consultation with experts in the field on our efforts. It should be noted that many elements build on efforts already initiated by SF State toward improving campus climate.

“The settlement emphasizes the importance of improving student experiences and student lives,” the statement continued. “It allows SF State to reiterate its commitment to equity and inclusion for all – including those who are Jewish – and reaffirms the values of free expression and diversity of viewpoints that are so critical on a university campus.”

[Photo: San Francisco State University / YouTube ]