Civil Rights Groups Furious With Pro-Israel Education Appointee

Rob Shimshock | Education Reporter

A pro-Israel Education Department nominee barely got confirmed by the Senate Thursday to head the department’s Office for Civil Rights.

The Senate confirmed Kenneth L. Marcus as the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for civil rights by a 50-46 vote, reported The Washington Post. Marcus served in the same capacity for two years under former President George W. Bush.

Marcus opposes the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement, which seeks to stop universities and other institutions from doing business with corporations like Boeing and HP that support Israel. The Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights, a coalition representing more than 200 national groups, had previously urged senators not to confirm the former and current assistant secretary. (RELATED: DeVos Appoints Free Speech Advocate As Higher Education Senior Staff)

“Mr. Marcus, in his previous role as acting assistant secretary at OCR from 2002 to 2004, was involved in the development of regulations governing single-sex education that relied on sex stereotypes,” the Leadership Conference stated in a January letter. “During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Marcus supported Secretary DeVos’ rescission of important guidance clarifying the responsibilities of educational institutions in cases of sexual assault and he would not commit to continuing to publish the list of colleges and universities under investigation regarding sexual assault.”

The coalition also lambasted Marcus for his opposition to affirmative action, conflating the policy which fosters equality of outcome with equality of opportunity. Advocacy organization Palestine Legal’s staff attorney Rahul Saksena also spoke out against the new appointee.

“Marcus’ record clearly demonstrates that his primary mission is not to protect students’ civil rights; it is to shield Israel from criticism,” the attorney said. “It’s unconscionable that the U.S. Senate has confirmed him to oversee civil rights enforcement in Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education even as Israel continues to gun down Palestinians protesting for their rights in Gaza.”

But Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander defended Marcus, who has authored “The Definition of Anti-Semitism” and “Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America,” saying that 68 groups, including Jewish and pro-Israel campus group Hillel International, signed letters in support of him.

“Mr. Marcus has been a longtime champion for civil rights and for college students,” Hillel International told Sen. Alexander. “We have worked personally with him on several campuses across the country in response to specific issues of bigotry and discrimination, and we have found him to be extremely skilled and knowledgeable in Civil Rights laws. Mr. Marcus has been a true leader in fighting discrimination.”

The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to the Department of Education for comment but received none in time for press.

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