U.S. Senator Katie Britt Presses Biden Administration to Protect Jewish Students on College Campuses

May 1, 2024

‘I am afraid that this Administration is not learning the lessons from the past’

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 1, 2024 – U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, yesterday questioned U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on the Biden Administration’s failure to ensure a safe learning environment for Jewish students on college campuses across America.

Senator Britt began her line of questioning by referencing numerous letters she has written to Secretary Cardona, starting in October, urging the Department of Education to uphold its responsibilities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Since Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7, the U.S. has seen a sharp and disturbing rise in antisemitic protests on college campuses, coupled with a lack of meaningful and urgent action by the Biden Administration to hold accountable perpetrators of antisemitic harassment and threats of violence. Senator Britt highlighted some of the recent incidents that have been widely publicized, including open calls for the eradication of the Jewish people and protestors linking arms to physically prevent Jewish students from entering campus buildings. She noted that these events are occurring predominantly at what are considered America’s “elite institutions,” calling the state of affairs a “national disgrace” and “a disservice to America’s future.”

Additionally, Senator Britt emphasized her opposition to the Biden Administration’s new Title IX rules, especially as the mother of a female student-athlete.

A transcript of Senator Britt’s line of questioning can be found below:

BRITT: Thank you, Madam Chair. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here today, greatly appreciate it.

As you were aware and have heard from a number of my colleagues, the large antisemitic demonstrations and encampments that have broken out on college campuses nationwide are simply unacceptable. [These have taken place at] some of our ‘elite institutions.’ To me, it’s just a national disgrace, and it’s a disservice to America’s future.

Going back to [October], Republican senators – myself included – have written multiple letters urging you to uphold Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and ensure that a safe learning environment exists for Jewish students. I know the Department has opened investigations, and I’ve heard you reference that today, and to some of these institutions, including Columbia.

However, things have clearly not gotten better over the last five or six months. In fact, in recent weeks, and even days, it’s proven that they’ve gotten significantly worse.

So, Mr. Secretary, does the Biden Administration really believe that it is effectively upholding Title VI, and ensuring a safe learning environment for Jewish students right now? Just a simple yes or no.

CARDONA: Thank you, first of all, Senator because I agree with you. The antisemitism that students are experiencing on campus is unacceptable.

BRITT: Thank you.

CARDONA: We’re committed to making sure we investigate Title VI.

BRITT: So investigation is one thing, but do you think right now that this Administration is upholding Title VI?

CARDONA: We are with the resources that we have, we’re here to request additional investigators. You know, in 2009, the number of cases has tripled since 2009, and we have 58 less people…

BRITT: But how long does this have to go on? I mean, if you look at the absurdity of some of this rhetoric on these campuses, when they’re saying ‘We are Hamas.’ I mean, do you think that is acceptable, for a Jewish student to have to hear that or ‘From the River to the Sea’ or ‘Go back to Poland’ or ‘Kill the Jews’?

My question is, do you think that that type of rhetoric is acceptable? And do you think that that allows for Jewish students to feel safe on campus? Yes or no? Yes or no?

CARDONA: Absolutely not.

BRITT: Thank you. I really appreciate that. Do you think that it’s okay to link arms and keep Jewish students from attending class? Do you think that’s okay?

CARDONA: Absolutely not.

BRITT: Thank you. I am afraid that this Administration is not learning the lessons from the past. When you look at the history, it wasn’t okay to do that in the 1960s. Do you understand? And it is not okay to do that now. This is the United States of America. We have to uphold the laws in front of us, we have to make sure that different groups based on their race or ethnicity are not discriminated against. We have to have safe learning environments.

And it is my thought that the Biden Administration is utterly failing the American people right now and failing the Jewish community across this nation. And I ask you to do more. I don’t know what investigation it takes, I don’t know where the bar is, but to me, all of the things I just referenced are enough. I hope that you hold these institutions accountable, and I hope you create a safe space across this nation for Jewish students to learn, to grow, and to be fostered on these college campuses. Anything less is unacceptable.

I’d like to ask you about your new Title IX proposal. So this weekend, I sat at track sectionals, watching my daughter run. I was so proud of her. She wanted to get her (personal record) PR, which I had to learn what that meant. But when I saw the difference and the disparities between the top female athletes, and then the top male athletes – they were significant.

I am reminded as we look back over history here, and I want to make it very clear, I believe we are all made in the image of God. And I believe each and every person should be treated with dignity and respect. But Title IX was created to create fairness, to create a level playing field to give young women the opportunity to strive, to grow, and to succeed. And when I look at the reality of your new Title IX proposal, it clearly shows that that playing field is about to be tilted.

You can look back to 1988 when you had Mrs. Joyner, known as FlowJo, who created a record in both the 100 and 200 meter dash that still stands today. You can look in 2019, though, that very record that stands, would have been beaten by 76 high school, biological males.

And my question to you is, how are we going to continue to create fairness, if you are tilting the playing field and underneath this current proposal? Is it true that a biological man could receive

a scholarship designated for a woman for collegiate athletics?

CARDONA: Thank you for your passion. And I just want to clarify the Biden Administration has over three times the number of investigations on Title IX than the Trump Administration in four years, so we are committed.

BRITT: An investigation, though, is very different than action. And I appreciate the opportunity to look into it, but now is the time for action.

CARDONA: We’ve closed more cases also.

BRITT: So what are you doing right now on Columbia’s campus?

CARDONA: On campus? (The) situation? We’re doing a lot. You know, we have updated guidance. We have a letter in draft right now. We have increased Title IX investigations. We have open investigations.

BRITT: So when you see what happens on GW’s (George Washington University’s) campus – and Madam Chairwoman, I understand my time has expired – and you see that [the University has] actually asked for public safety, [they] have asked the mayor to send in police to help them with that situation and she’s refused. Do you stand by the mayor? Or do you stand by GW?

CARDONA: I want to make… I stand by the students who deserve to be safe on campus as a father. That’s what I expect from my children. I expect that from children all across… I agree with you on that. Let’s work together to make sure that the message is clear that, while the First Amendment is their freedom, when it crosses the line and makes students feel unsafe, or harmed on campus, that’s where we draw the line. I’ve spoken to Jewish students who have had antisemitic comments made at them.

BRITT: It’s disgusting and despicable.

CARDONA:  It’s unacceptable. I agree with you.

BRITT: Absolutely. Well, let’s work together and let’s not just talk about it. Let’s do something now. Thank you.

Video of Senator Britt’s entire line of questioning to Secretary Cardona can be found here, and high-quality video for media use can be downloaded here.