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Judge again dismisses civil rights lawsuit against SF State

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A federal judge has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit in which five present and former Jewish students and two community members claimed San Francisco State University tolerated and sometimes encouraged anti-Semitic conduct.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick of San Francisco said the lawsuit didn’t allege adequate facts to support the claim of discrimination and hostility toward Jewish students and people of Israeli descent.

He dismissed the case in a 41-page ruling filed late Monday.

The judge wrote:

“I understand that these plaintiffs, and some other members of the Jewish or Israeli community in or around SFSU, feel deeply that SFSU has not done enough to curtail others’ anti-Semitic behaviors and to foster a better environment for Jewish and pro-Israeli students.”

But he said the acts described in the lawsuit “do not adequately allege a violation of federal anti-discrimination laws so that liability may be imposed on SFSU, its administrators, or its faculty.”

The lawsuit was the third version of a case originally filed by six former and current students in June 2017.

Orrick dismissed the second version in March of this year for similar reasons of insufficient allegations, but allowed the students to revise the lawsuit and before that to revise the first version. In Monday’s decision, he dismissed the third version and denied permission for another revision.

The defendants in the lawsuit were the university, President Les Wong, eight other administrators and Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who teaches in the university’s College of Ethnic Studies.

The Lawfare Project, a New York-based pro-Israel legal group representing the students, said it will appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Lawfare Project said in a statement:

“We strongly disagree with the order and intend to pursue an appeal. We always knew the road to justice will be long.”

The project has also filed a state court lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against the university’s trustees on behalf of two of the students. The case is currently scheduled for trial next March.

SFSU spokeswoman Mary Kenny said:

“The university has no additional comment.”

In previous statements, the university has said its administrators do not tolerate discrimination and that it is “deeply committed to the elimination of anti-Semitism in our community and to fostering a safe and welcoming campus for our Jewish students.”

Among other allegations, the suit claimed campus administrators failed to stop pro-Palestinian demonstrators from drowning out a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on April 6, 2016.

It also alleged the campus branch of Hillel International, a Jewish students’ group, was unfairly excluded from a campus “Know Your Rights” fair aimed at members of vulnerable populations on Feb. 18, 2017.

Orrick said the students hadn’t shown evidence of a specific intent by administrators to discriminate or of a significant impairment of the students’ education.


SFBay editor Jesse Garnier is an assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

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