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OPINION: Colleges Must Provide a Safe Learning Space for All Students

By Will Barclay


New York’s college campuses are no place for antisemitism, hate speech, or violence of any kind, and any university administration that fails to ensure as much has no business running a school in our state. Incidents at Cornell University, where a student was arrested for promoting gruesome violence against the Jewish community, and in our City University of New York (CUNY) schools have led to serious concerns about our state’s learning environments.

“Violence and hatred must not be allowed to fester in our colleges.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul [recently] ordered a probe for incidents of antisemitism at CUNY schools. While I support this measure, there is more we must do to ensure the safety of the students, faculty, and educators living and commuting to our college campuses. For that reason, the Assembly Minority Conference has sponsored new legislation to protect and prevent students from facing unsafe learning conditions on campuses in the state. Additionally, I have called for answers from university officials about these incidents in an open letter that can be found at:

Our proposed “Dismantling Student Antisemitism Act” (DSA Act), spearheaded by Assemblyman Ed Ra (R–Franklin Square), would require sensitivity training for students, faculty, and staff and establish baseline reporting requirements for institutions of higher education to combat a growing, unsettling rise in antisemitism.

In the wake of the devastating Hamas terror attack that took place in Israel on Saturday, Oct. 7, we have seen a 400 percent spike in antisemitic incidents. No New Yorker should ever be subjected to hate-based harassment, and that is especially true of our college campuses where students and staff must be free to communicate and learn in safety. 

 Among the provisions included in the DSA Act are: 

• The establishment and implementation of a training program for all current and new employees, and a requirement all college and university administrators, faculty, staff, and students attend training seminars;

• Mandatory consultation with an expert in the areas of antisemitism awareness, prevention, and Jewish history and culture to conduct the training;

• The dissemination of information pertaining to such policies and procedures to the New York State Education Department on an annual basis;

• The publication of such information regarding who to contact with questions regarding the policy and how to report violations of this policy; and 

• State-aid penalties for failing to comply with the requirements of the legislation.

Violence and hatred must not be allowed to fester in our colleges. Before this problem gets worse, I am calling for immediate action both on campus and in the state legislature. Anything less from university and government officials represents a willful failure to protect our students and communities.        

William (Will) A. Barclay, 54, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses all of Oswego County, as well as parts of Jefferson and Cayuga counties.

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