The man President Trump has tapped for the critical job of chief of civil rights in the Education Department is the president of a Jewish center for human rights who has been critical of campus supporters of a Palestinian-led campaign to divest from Israel and who previously served in the George W. Bush administration.
Kenneth L. Marcus of Virginia is being nominated as assistant secretary for civil rights at the education agency, taking over the same responsibilities that he filled under Bush and that have been carried out for months in an acting capacity by the controversial Candice Jackson. Jackson was criticized after saying this past summer that most sexual assault accusations on college campuses are primarily the result of students being drunk or having a bad breakup. She later apologized.
In an email, Marcus said he would refer queries about his nomination to the Education Department.
The nomination received a better response from Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, than have other Trump nominations:
“I am very glad that Secretary DeVos listened to the parents and students across the country who rejected Candice Jackson’s callousness toward survivors of sexual assault and deeply misguided approach to protecting the civil rights and safety of students in our nation’s schools. I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Marcus and determining whether he will commit to protecting the civil rights and safety of all students and maintaining the mission of the Office for Civil Rights to ‘ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.’”
Trump’s nomination of Marcus comes not long after the president was criticized for blaming “both sides” for the violence that erupted in Charlottesville in August between a group of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members who marched with Confederate and Nazi flags and chanted, “Jews will not replace us,” and people who were protesting their presence.
Marcus, who once served as staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and taught at the City University of New York’s Baruch College School of Public Affairs, is president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law in Washington. The center, according to its website, is an independent, nonpartisan institution for public interest advocacy, research and education whose mission “is to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and to promote justice for all.”
Marcus has been vocal in criticizing supporters of what is known as the Palestinian-led BDS — or Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions — movement, which works to diminish international support for Israel economically, politically and academically. In 2016, he wrote a piece published by Newsweek calling BDS’s academic boycott “arguably anti-Semitic” and criticized academic organizations that supported it.
In 2013, the Brandeis Center urged “the Obama administration to use the Department of Education’s mandatory data-gathering program to protect religious minorities, including Jewish, Muslim and Sikh children, from harassment and bullying — just as it does for racial and ethnic minorities,” the center’s website says. It also says:
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) had previously floated a proposal to do just that, following the Brandeis Center’s prior recommendations. But the Center also argues that more must be done to combat harassment and bullying than what OCR now proposes.
“It is imperative that OCR expand this program to include religious harassment,” the Brandeis Center told the Department in its formal comments last night. “Indeed, it is unjustifiable that the federal government fails to collect this data when it collects data regarding other, similar forms of discrimination targeted at similar groups.” The Center insisted however that OCR must do more than just collect data; it must also combat this harassment through its enforcement program, just as it does with other forms of discrimination.