From: Jewish Studies Faculty
To: Eric Fingerhut, President; Tina Price, Chair of the Board of Directors of Hillel International; and Officers and Members of the Board of Directors of Hillel International
Re: Kenneth Marcus Nomination
We write to request Hillel International to withdraw its support for the nomination of Kenneth Marcus to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education. Mr. Marcus is on record supporting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ decision to dismantle Title IX guidelines on sexual assault that bolster protections for student survivors of sexual assault.
We find it alarming that any campus organization would support a governmental appointee whose public statements put him at direct odds with the safety of our students. Marcus’ support of DeVos’ actions runs counter to Hillel International’s earlier support of these same Title IX guidelines and, more generally, of Hillel’s stated commitment to standing “against rape culture on campus, partnering with It's On Us nationally, and supporting students through incidents of sexual harassment and assault,” as Hillel’s own Chief Talent Officer wrote to Hillel professionals and lay leaders in December 2017. Having made such a statement, we fail to understand how Hillel International could support Marcus’ bid to oversee the civil rights of students. Indeed, contrary to Hillel International, the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Women International have both issued statements against Marcus' nomination.
One need not reiterate the number or significance of recent news stories exposing a pervasive culture of sexual assault in our country and on our campuses in order to understand the necessity of robust enforcement mechanisms to protect student survivors of sexual crimes. Dismantling the Title IX guidelines that are currently in place imperils vulnerable students and has the potential to rob them of the vast opportunities that higher education has to offer. Supporting the appointment of a government official who is openly hostile to these protections for students is tantamount to neglecting the best interests of all of our students.
Regardless of Hillel International’s views on Marcus’ other political commitments, your organization has a fundamental obligation to protect the safety of the students it serves. Supporting Marcus cedes that very core component of your mission to other political interests. We insist that our students deserve far better.
In the name of our students’ interests in accessing the opportunities of higher education in as safe and secure an environment as possible, we request that Hillel International withdraw its support for Mr. Marcus’ nomination. Revoking your support will demonstrate your commitment to our students and our campuses. Failure to do so will be long remembered as a moment in which Hillel International chose to play politics with the lives of our students.