WASHINGTON, DC – Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), along with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), today introduced legislation to address discrimination on college and university campuses. The Protecting Students on Campus Act would inform students of their right to file a civil rights complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education if they experience discrimination based on their race, color, or national origin.
“Diversity is our strength as a country. No student should face hostility or violence for who they are, what they look like, where they’re from, or what they believe,” said Senator Fetterman. “Amid a despicable rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in our country, I am proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues to empower students facing discrimination to take action and hold universities accountable in protecting students.”
“No student should be harassed or attacked at school just because of who they are,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This legislation holds colleges and universities accountable and ensures discrimination against students is never ignored.”
“Discrimination should never stand in the way of a student’s education,” said Senator Casey. “I’m proud to join Senators Fetterman and Cassidy to cosponsor this bill to bolster students’ ability to report incidents of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination. Our students deserve accountability when they’re made to feel unsafe in the classroom.”
The Protecting Students on Campus Act would:
- Empower students by improving awareness of how to report alleged civil rights violations regarding race, color, or national origin.
- Require colleges and universities that receive federal funding to post on their homepage a link to OCR’s website where students can submit complaints.
- Require colleges and universities that receive federal funding to post materials on how to file OCR complaints in physical locations on campus and online, including accessible elements such as auditory assistance to maximize all students’ awareness of the OCR complaint process.
- Require OCR to brief Congress monthly on:
- The number of complaints OCR receives
- OCR’s plans to address those complaints
- How long complaints have been pending with OCR
- Require the ED Inspector General to audit colleges and universities that report the highest number of discrimination complaints relative to their student population.
- Prohibit OCR from closing or dismissing complaints due to resolutions by another federal, state, or local civil rights enforcement agency to ensure students receive justice.
Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has a responsibility to ensure university programs or activities that receive federal funds do not discriminate against students based on their race, color, or national origin. Complaints filed by students who face discrimination, or on their behalf, are handled by ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This legislation would ensure that colleges and universities that receive federal funding, such as federal student aid, properly inform students of their right to file OCR discrimination complaints. It would also provide accountability to ensure OCR properly investigates alleged discrimination so colleges and universities can maintain a safe learning environment for all students.
This bipartisan legislation comes amid rising antisemitic, anti-Arab, and Islamophobic activity on college campuses and nationwide following the October 7th attack on Israel by Hamas militants and Israel’s ensuing bombardment of Gaza. There have been a reported 2,031 antisemitic incidents nationwide in the eight weeks following October 7th – a 337 percent increase from the same period last year, and 2,171 complaints of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian incidents or requests for help in the same period – a 172 percent increase from the previous year, including the shooting of three Palestinian-American college students in Burlington, VT on November 25th.
A one-pager on the legislation can be found here.