College students from Michigan react to President Trump’s executive order that targets anti-Semitism on college campuses.
On Dec. 11, President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting “anti-Semitism and Israeli boycotts on college campuses.” The New York Times reported the executive order views Judaism as a race or nationality so that the protection of Jewish students can fall under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under Title VI, the Department of Education can penalize colleges and universities by withholding public funding if they discriminate “on the grounds of race, color or national origin.” The only element missing is religion.
But what do Jewish college students think about President Trump’s executive order?
Jordan Wohl, 21, a senior at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, has been a Jewish leader on campus and voices concern that the executive order could negatively affect Jewish students.
“If you take my school for example, we are a hot bed for anti-Israel sentiments,” Wohl said.
“A lot of it has to do with the demographics of the city of Dearborn because we are the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the country. Students are raised by hearing stories of Palestine and Lebanon and how the Israeli government has infiltrated communities and white-washed them.”
This ideology on his campus has a direct impact on Wohl’s experience as a Jewish student.
“I really struggled on campus because I came from a heavily influential Jewish family,” Wohl said. “When I got to UM-Dearborn, I immediately had a target on my back.”
“But now there is going to be a larger target on Jewish students’ back. This order is going to make things 100% worse for Jewish college students.”
Wohl also believes that this executive order infringes on students’ right to free speech.
“Do you think that BDS and organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are going to stop now? If anything, this is going to energize them more. You’re taking a group that feels that they have been unfairly treated and you’re now placing further restrictions on who they protest against because they see Israel as their suppressors.”
Jordan Robinson, 19, a sophomore at Michigan State University, is active in the Hillel community on campus and views President Trump’s executive order as necessary for the protection of Jewish college students.
“I think it was a smart move on his part and came at the right time,” Robinson said. “It definitely could have come earlier, but it came at a time where anti-Semitic incidents are at a peak on college campuses.”
While Robinson believes that this executive order is justified, he doesn’t see it playing a role in diminishing anti-Semitic attacks.
“In the past year alone on MSU’s campus we have seen a rise in SJP, not necessarily in the form of acts against Jewish students but more so in gaining momentum,” Robinson said. “I definitely can see them using this executive order to their advantage.”
Wayne State University senior Nisim Nesimov, 21, who is active with Alpha Epsilon Pi, Hillel, and Students for Israel, offered a different point of view.
“I believe that President Trump’s executive order is going to have a positive impact on Jewish college students,” Nesimov said. “It recognizes the obvious fact that Jewish people should be protected as a nation.”
Nesimov predicts anti-Israel organizations will not be energized by this executive order and suggests that suppressing freedom of speech is not what President Trump set out to do.
“I don’t think this is necessarily going to infringe on the rights of people’s freedom of speech in organizations such as SJP,” Nesimov said. “The executive order does state that it is not intended to limit any First Amendment rights. But the way it will be implemented by this administration and future administrations will determine if it does in fact infringe on people’s rights.”
While Jewish students on Michigan’s college campuses have differing viewpoints on the executive order, one thing they can agree on is concern about how it will actually be implemented.