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Pro-Palestinian students file civil rights complaint against Harvard University

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(NEW YORK) — More than a dozen Harvard University students have filed a civil rights complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights demanding an investigation into Harvard’s alleged failure to protect pro-Palestinian students from harassment, intimidation and threats, according to the Muslim Legal Fund of America, which filed the complaint.

The Muslim Legal Fund of America alleges that the students have been targeted with “rampant harassment and racist attacks including doxxing, stalking and assault simply for being Palestinian, Muslim, and supporters of Palestinian rights.”

The group alleges that some students have been assaulted for wearing keffiyehs, traditional Palestinian scarves.

“Instead of providing protection or resources, Harvard responded to the students’ requests for help with closed doors, and in some cases threats — by those in positions of power — to limit or retract the students’ future academic opportunities,” the Muslim Legal Fund of America said in a statement.

The students who filed the complaint attend Harvard College, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Law School.

After the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights receives a complaint, it evaluates and determines whether it will open an investigation, according to the agency.

Harvard University told ABC News it did not have a comment regarding the complaint, but pointed to a list of supports and resources the university put in place for students and pointed to last Friday’s announcement of a Presidential Taskforce on Combating Islamophobia and Anti-Arab Bias.

Since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, college students — including students from Jewish and pro-Israel communities — told ABC News that they do not feel safe on campus and they do not feel supported by their universities, including Harvard.

Three college students of Palestinian descent were shot in Burlington, Vermont, in November. The shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Earlier this month, a group of Jewish students at Harvard University filed a federal lawsuit claiming the school has “become a bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment” and alleging the administration has failed to protect them.

“Jewish students on campus have been subjected to a really hostile environment in which they have been intimidated, harassed and in some instances physically assaulted because they’re Jewish,” attorney Marc Kasowitz, who is representing the Jewish students in the legal action, told ABC News Thursday. “Right now, the Jewish students on campus at Harvard are afraid for their own physical safety and to express their views about current events.”

A spokesperson for Harvard University issued a statement at the time to ABC News, saying, “We do not comment on pending litigation.”

Palestinian students told ABC News in December that they felt Islamophobia has been treated with less gravity than antisemitism.

After at least 30 student groups at Harvard released a letter in December blaming, in part, the Israeli regime for “all unfolding violence” in the wake of Hamas’ attack. Students in groups that signed onto the letter have faced public outrage and harassment, including doxxing.

Several groups have since retracted their signatures and the authors of the letter later released a statement clarifying that they do not condone violence against civilians.

“Our statement’s purpose was clear: to address the root cause of all the violence unfolding. To state what should be clear: PSC staunchly opposes all violence against all innocent life and laments all human suffering,” the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee said in a subsequent statement.

In the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel, a bus was seen driving through campus streets with a banner that read “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites” and video screens showing the names and faces of students who allegedly signed onto the letter.

Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned earlier this month in part because of criticism of her reaction to alleged antisemitism on campus and her response to questions from lawmakers during a hearing on Capitol Hill in December. Gay has also faced accusations of plagiarism in old academic work.

Provost Alan Garber is now serving as interim president.

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