(JTA) – A U.S. federal judge said a lawsuit filed in June by former and current Jewish San Francisco State University students did not establish that the university tolerates and encourages anti-Semitic activity, and told the lawyers to try again.
Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco said at a hearing Wednesday that the lawsuit does not show intent by the university to discriminate against Jewish students. He gave the group a chance to refile the lawsuit to make it “lean and clear.”
Orrick told the group that the lawsuit must allege a specific intent to discriminate and to show not only that Jewish students or Israeli speakers were harassed, but that university officials were responsible for the events and were motivated by religious bias, the San Francisco Gate reported.
“Today’s hearing made clear that this important litigation will get the time and attention it deserves, ensuring that our clients are able to continue their pursuit of justice,” The Lawfare Project, which brought the suit along with the firm Winston & Strawn LLP, said in a statement following the one-hour hearing. “For far too long, San Francisco State University administrators and faculty members have knowingly and systematically fostered and engaged in discrimination against the University’s Jewish student population, as well as the wider Jewish community.”
The lawsuit, which names the university’s president, Leslie Wong, and other school officials as defendants, claims violations of the U.S. Civil Rights Act and the constitutional guarantees of free speech and equal treatment. It delineates several incidents, including an April 2016 speech on campus by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat that was disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters, making Jewish students feel unsafe.
“SFSU and its administrators have knowingly fostered this discrimination and hostile environment, which has been marked by violent threats to the safety of Jewish students on campus,” the lawsuit says.
The suit seeks monetary damages, as well as a court order to force the defendants to cease the behavior it outlines.
An independent investigation of the Barkat incident initiated by the university determined that the school did not have the proper security protocol in place to handle a protest and Jewish students did not feel safe.
In a letter accompanying the university’s report of the incident, Wong said there was significant work to be done to improve the campus climate and safety for students.