Hillel: Stand with students and survivors: Withdraw Your Endorsement of Kenneth Marcus

February 5, 2018

We are dismayed to hear that Hillel International has endorsed Kenneth Marcus, Donald Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education. Like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Marcus seeks to undermine Title IX Civil Rights protections for campus victims of sexual harassment and assault. Marcus has also demonstrated opposition or indifference to enforcing key anti-discrimination laws and has built his career on chilling campus conversations. Hillel claims that Marcus is “an excellent partner” to Jewish students,  yet in reality Marcus’s aims run counter to Jewish students’ needs, interests and values. Hillel should listen to its students and rescind its endorsement immediately.

As the #MeToo Movement grows and students across the country call for strengthened protections against sexual harassment and assault, Marcus supports the rollback of hard-won Title IX protections. Jewish students are directly harmed by sexual violence on their campuses and are organizing for the very policies that Marcus opposes. Hillel claims to stand with students in fighting rape culture on campus. Yet by endorsing Marcus, Hillel has thrown student survivors under the bus and signaled to students within and beyond the Jewish community that Hillel will not support them in pursuing justice and an equal right to an education.

Jewish students are committed to equal rights and justice more broadly as core Jewish values. Yet, in his confirmation hearing, Marcus indicated that he would not intervene in response to blatant racial inequality. Marcus has consistently failed to demonstrate an understanding of civil rights protections for immigrant students, students of color, students with disabilities, and female and LGBTQ students. By endorsing Marcus, Hillel has failed Jewish students who are part of these communities and rejected the values that most Jewish students share.

On campus, Jewish students seek to engage in open and critical conversations on Israel/Palestine and other key political issues. In contrast, Marcus has built his career on suing universities and student activists for exercising their right to free speech and shutting down vital student voices. By endorsing Marcus, Hillel has abandoned its students and the core Jewish commitment to open discourse.  

Hillel stated that Marcus is a “leader on issues of critical importance to Jewish students.” Yet in endorsing Marcus, Hillel failed to consult with the Jewish students it claims to represent. Rather than advancing the narrow agenda of its donors, Hillel should foster democratic student leadership and empower students to decide for themselves whom they would like to endorse.

By endorsing Kenneth Marcus, Hillel has misrepresented and undermined the needs and positions of Jewish students. We call on Hillel International to reverse its endorsement and stand with students in rejecting Marcus.