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Students sue Northwestern University, claim failure to address "severe antisemitism" on campus

Lawsuit claims Northwestern University failed to protect students from antisemitism
Lawsuit claims Northwestern University failed to protect students from antisemitism 02:49

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) -- The pro-Palestinian tent encampment at Northwestern University came down weeks ago when protesters and the university came to an agreement – but up against the now-quiet backdrop of the Evanston campus, the controversy continues.

Northwestern and its leaders are facing a new lawsuit seeking class-action status, saying the university has failed to protect Jewish students from severe antisemitic harassment.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Jonathan Lindenfeld is the attorney representing the plaintiff, listed on the complaint as John Doe.

"We've seen antisemitism go unaddressed for a long time," Lindenfeld said, "and in the last several months, since October 7, it's become unbearable."

The complaint alleged some Jewish students faced harassment and hateful rhetoric. It also criticizes the school for allowing tent encampments in protest of the war in Gaza – in violation of its own campus policies.

"The university has an obligation under its own policies, as well as the Civil Rights Act, to ensure the First Amendment of these students does not overtake the university's obligation to ensure that Jewish students have a safe environment for their educational experience," Lindenfeld said.

The lawsuit comes weeks after Northwestern reached a deal with student protesters – ending the encampment at Deering Meadow. University President Michael Schill stood by that decision in a video message in late April.

"I am proud of our community for achieving what has been a challenge across the country - a sustainable de-escalated path forward; one that prioritizes safety, safety of all students," Schill said.

Under the agreement between the protesters and the university, protests may continue through June 1. But only one aid tent camp has been allowed to remain.

In return, among several concessions including support for Palestinian faculty and students, the school will answer questions about its specific holdings.

Schill is one of three university presidents who will testify before a committee on antisemitism on college campuses this Thursday.

Another lawsuit with allegations that the university enabled harassment specifically at the encampment protest was filed earlier this month in Cook County Circuit Court, on behalf of three students.

CBS 2 reached out to Northwestern about the latest lawsuit, but had not heard back as of 10 p.m. Monday.

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