Despite a temporary setback, efforts to bring an end to the growing incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses in Virginia have garnered some key support.
Virginia Delegates Dave LaRock and Mark Cole introduced HB 2261 to recognize anti-Semitism as a form of unlawful discriminatory practice. However, the bill was referred to the House Committee on General Laws where it was left last week, meaning it will have to be reintroduced in another session.
LeRock's office reports, however, that even though Virginia's 30-day legislative session ended before the bill was passed, Delegate C. Todd Gilbert (Virginia's deputy majority leader) acknowledged the severity of the growing anti-Semitism on campus and committed to place the initiative at the top of the docket during next year's legislative session.
OneNewsNow spoke with Kenneth Marcus, president of The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which is based in Washington, DC. Marcus says there have been an increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses statewide.
"That's not an indication that Virginia is any worse than any other place," he shares. "It's simply a sign of a growing national problem that we are seeing now in Virginia as other people are seeing around the country."
Concerns about student freedom of speech were raised if the bill were passed. But Marcus says constitutional rights would be carefully protected.
"HB 2261 is very careful not to restrict any speech," he says. "It deals with anti-Semitic conduct like assault or battery or vandalism of various sorts."
According to research conducted by Trinity College and Brandeis University, more than half of Jewish students on U.S. campuses reported experiencing or witnessing anti-Semitism in 2014 and 2015. An AMCHA Initiative study showed anti-Semitic incidents at universities increased by 45 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Editor's note: Story updated after initial posting to include information re: Delegate Gilbert.