Photo: Paul Morigi

Controversial Trump appointment of Kenneth Marcus to Department of Education: Hearing on December 5

December 4, 2017
Contact: Tallie Ben Daniel, Academic Program Manager | (818) 675 6330 |

On Tuesday December 5, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of controversial nominee Kenneth Marcus as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education.

There is little evidence that Marcus has worked to combat discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, or any of the other forms of discrimination his nominated position is designed to address. His long record of harassing students and faculty that he disagrees with – documented in Palestine Legal’s report The Palestine Exception – shows that this appointment is the latest of Trump’s officials who aim to dismantle the core purpose of the office that he or she is heading.

Marcus has a long record of targeting the First Amendment-protected speech and scholarship of people with whom he disagrees – primarily students and faculty who advocate for Palestinian rights. His advocacy group, the Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law, works to repress the First Amendment rights of those who oppose Israeli government policies through claims that to do so is to contribute to a “hostile environment” for Jewish students on campus. A letter against his appointment by Jewish Voice for Peace’s Academic Advisory council was signed by over 200 faculty.

Marcus is a proponent of the use of a definition of antisemitism that has been widely cited as unconstitutional on college campuses, and advocated for a bill last year that would have made that usage mandatory by the Office of Civil Rights. As Assistant Secretary to that office, he may be able to use that definition without congressional approval.

According to Tallie Ben Daniel, Academic Program Manager of Jewish Voice for Peace:

“If confirmed in this position, Marcus will be able to apply a widely discredited definition of antisemitism with the power of the federal government behind him. He not only poses a danger to those who advocate for Palestinian human rights, but to all students and to the spirit of the university itself. Our students deserve better.”

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Jewish Voice for Peace is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 200,000 online supporters, over 70 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.


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