Education Department investigates Harvard following anti-Semitism complaint

The Department of Education added Harvard to those being investigated for alleged anti-Semitism on Tuesday. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The Department of Education added Harvard University to a list of institutions under investigation for alleged anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents on campus.

Harvard was added to the list, which includes 57 elementary-secondary and post-secondary institutions "currently under investigation for discrimination involving shared ancestry" on Tuesday.

The investigation came after a complaint alleged that Harvard discriminated against students of Jewish and/or Israeli origin "when it failed to respond appropriately to reports of incidents of harassment" in October, according to a letter from the Department of Education, The Boston Globe reported.

An Education Department spokesperson confirmed the investigation to NBC News but said the Office for Civil Rights does not discuss the details of current investigations.

Harvard spokesman Jason A. Newton said that Harvard supports "the work of the Office of Civil Rights to ensure students' rights to access educational programs are safeguarded and will work with the office to address their questions."

Israel has been engaged in a war with Hamas since Oct. 7 when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, prompting demonstrations on college campuses throughout the United States.

The FBI and Harvard University Police Department are already investigating an Oct. 18 incident in which a man, identified as an Israeli student at the university, filmed the faces of students engaged in a pro-Palestinian "die-in" protest, before he and the protesters came into physical contact as some attempted to lead him away.

It was not immediately clear if the Education Department's investigation was directly related to that incident.

Harvard President Claudine Gay said earlier this month in a letter to the campus that they were investigating an incident that happened at Harvard's Business College on Oct. 18, but it was unclear if the Education Department's investigation was in connection to that event.

Gay said the university created the Anti-Semitism Advisory Group to address such incidents made up of faculty, alumni, students, and community leaders.

"As president, I affirm our commitment to protecting all members of our community from harassment and marginalization, and our commitment to meeting antisemitism head-on, with the determination it demands," Gay said in the letter. "Let me reiterate what I and other Harvard leaders have said previously: Antisemitism has no place at Harvard."

Gay will testify before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in a hearing about anti-Semitism on college campuses next week.

Harvard joins other Ivy League institutions including Columbia University, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania on the list of schools under investigation by the Education Department.

In announcing its decision to share the list, the department said it had received five complaints of anti-Semitic harassment and two of anti-Muslim harassment.

The release came after authorities on Nov. 1 arrested Cornell University Student Patrick Dai, who threatened to "stab and rape" Jewish students.