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Kenneth Marcus, Trump’s nominee for civil rights, has a long history of working against them

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Any day now, the Senate will consider President Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, Kenneth Marcus. This is a vote that could have widespread and lasting consequences for the safety and rights of students and faculty across the country, in particular those of people of color, women, and LGBTQ students.

As representatives of organizations that are dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of these threatened communities, we are deeply concerned about Mr. Marcus’ record of working against the mission of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the agency he is nominated to lead. Marcus is unfit for the job.

As Assistant Secretary, Marcus would be responsible for fulfilling the Office’s duty “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.” It is impossible to square Marcus’s record with these goals. Marcus has an extensive history of targeting constitutionally protected speech, of hostility towards affirmative action and civil rights, of anti-LGBTQ positions, and of lobbying for discrimination in university funding based on political viewpoints.

Marcus has long opposed affirmative action, which seeks to correct past and present-day exclusion of Black students, as “racial prejudice” against white students. For Marcus, the fact that Black students are underrepresented at elite universities isn’t due to the legacy and persistence of racism, but the “cultural dysfunction” of Black families. This offensive racial stereotyping is not only factually incorrect but also downright offensive to the millions of Black students who excel in the sciences, art, business, law, etc. in schools across the country. Marcus cannot be entrusted with protecting the civil rights of students of color when he neither understands systemic racism nor respects people of color.

LGBTQ students and faculty can expect a similarly hostile response if they seek to challenge campus homophobia. When Marcus previously served at OCR as Assistant Secretary during the Bush Administration, he argued that universities that tried to address harassment of LGBTQ students were guilty of “religious discrimination.” Many LGBTQ students find it difficult to succeed in the face of harassment and other forms of discrimination on campus, but Marcus isn’t likely to be their ally. As Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), he opposed investigating violations of the rights of LGBTQ persons. This record is particularly concerning in light of the Department’s hostile actions to date toward LGBTQ students under President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Further, Marcus supports Secretary DeVos’s decision to rescind detailed Title IX guidance on sexual violence and to give special rights to alleged perpetrators—including one-sided appeal rights and an unbalanced evidentiary standard. He even claimed that OCR was wrong to require schools to use the preponderance of the evidence standard in Title IX investigations—even though OCR required schools to use the preponderance standard the last time he was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. While the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to rally behind survivors, Marcus has made it clear that OCR will not protect the civil right of students to learn in educational environments free of sexual harassment and violence.

Marcus has also targeted the rights of students and faculty who advocate for self-determination for Palestinians. He has abused the OCR complaint process by pushing frivolous protests that only serve to harass and stifle the speech of students he disagrees with. After OCR concluded in 2011 that accusations of campus antisemitism were false and that pro-Palestinian activism was merely the “robust and discordant expressions” common to universities, Marcus still boasted that “even when [charges of antisemitism are] rejected,” they still “expose administrators to bad publicity.” As Assistant Secretary, he’ll be able to wield the threat of bad publicity in an attempt to force universities to restrict the rights of groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine.

At a time of resurgent white identity politics and threats to minority communities, students and faculty deserve an Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights who will protect their civil rights—not a man who claims he cannot name a single civil-rights violation committed by the Trump administration. Senators should do the right thing and reject Marcus’ nomination. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said at Marcus’ committee hearing, “I don’t think we need someone in this position whose view of civil rights enforcement is to do as little as possible to protect as few students as possible.”

Abed A. Ayoub, Legal & Policy Director, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Phillip Agnew, Co-Director, Dream Defenders

Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy, National Center for Transgender Equality

 

Any day now, the Senate will consider President Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, Kenneth Marcus. This is a vote that could have widespread and lasting consequences for the safety and rights of students and faculty across the country, in particular those of people of color, women, and LGBTQ students.

As representatives of organizations that are dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of these threatened communities, we are deeply concerned about Mr. Marcus’ record of working against the mission of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the agency he is nominated to lead. Marcus is unfit for the job.

As Assistant Secretary, Marcus would be responsible for fulling the Office’s duty “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.” It is impossible to square Marcus’s record with these goals. Marcus has an extensive history of targeting constitutionally protected speech, hostility towards affirmative action and civil rights, anti-LGBTQ positions, and lobbying for discrimination in university funding based on political viewpoints.

Marcus has long opposed affirmative action, which seeks to correct past and present-day exclusion of Black students, as “racial prejudice” against white students. For Marcus, the fact that Black students are underrepresented at elite universities isn’t due to the legacy and persistence of racism, but the “cultural dysfunction” of Black families. This offensive racial stereotyping is not only factually incorrect but also downright offensive to the millions of Black students who excel in the sciences, art, business, law, etc. in schools across the country. Marcus cannot be entrusted with protecting the civil rights of students of color when he neither understands systemic racism nor respects people of color.

LGBTQ students and faculty can expect a similarly hostile response if they seek to challenge campus homophobia. When Marcus previously served at OCR as Assistant Secretary during the Bush Administration, he argued that universities that tried to address harassment of LGBTQ students were guilty of “religious discrimination.” Many LGBTQ students find it difficult to succeed in the face of harassment and other forms of discrimination on campus, but Marcus isn’t likely to be their ally. As Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), he opposed investigating violations of the rights of LGBTQ persons. This record is particularly concerning in light of the Department’s hostile actions to date toward LGBTQ students under President Trump and Secretary DeVos.

Further, Marcus supports Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s decision to rescind detailed Title IX guidance on sexual violence and to give special rights to alleged perpetrators—including one-sided appeal rights and an unbalanced evidentiary standard. He even claimed that OCR was wrong to require schools to use the preponderance of the evidence standard in Title IX investigations—even though OCR required schools to use the preponderance standard the last time he was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. While the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to rally behind survivors, Marcus has made it clear that OCR will not protect the civil right of students to learn in educational environments free of sexual harassment and violence.

Marcus has also targeted the rights of students and faculty who advocate for self-determination for Palestinians. He has abused the OCR complaint process by pushing frivolous protests that only serve to harass and stifle the speech of students he disagrees with. After OCR concluded in 2011 that accusations of campus antisemitism were false and that pro-Palestinian activism was merely the “robust and discordant expressions” common to universities, Marcus still boasted that “even when [charges of antisemitism are] rejected,” they still “expose administrators to bad publicity.” As Assistant Secretary, he’ll be able to wield the threat of bad publicity in an attempt to force universities to restrict the rights of groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine.

At a time of resurgent white identity politics and threats to minority communities, students and faculty deserve an Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights who will protect their civil rights—not a man who claims he cannot name a single civil rights violation committed by the Trump administration. Senators should do the right thing and reject Marcus’ nomination. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said at Marcus’ committee hearing, “I don’t think we need someone in this position whose view of civil rights enforcement is to do as little as possible to protect as few students as possible.”

Links to our organizations: American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Dream Defenders

National Center for Transgender Equality

 

About Abed A. Ayoub, Phillip Agnew and Harper Jean Tobin

Abed A. Ayoub is Legal and Policy Director, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Phillip Agnew is Co-Director of Dream Defenders. Harper Jean Tobin is Director of Policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

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12 Responses

  1. Emory Riddle
    March 17, 2018, 12:06 pm

    The look on this guy’s face is screaming that he is a smug, ignorant, arrogant, racist.

    • Citizen
      March 17, 2018, 7:32 pm

      He just looks highly untrustworthy to me. I would never buy anything he’s selling.

    • Sibiriak
      March 17, 2018, 11:11 pm

      Emory Riddle : The look on this guy’s face is screaming that he is a smug, ignorant, arrogant, racist.
      —————————–

      Physiognomy is a key weapon in the anti-Zionist arsenal.

    • John O
      March 18, 2018, 5:11 am

      It’s the Vietnam-era glasses that scare me.

  2. Ronald Johnson
    March 17, 2018, 1:57 pm

    It is amusing to consult the Wikipedia entry for Kenneth Marcus, paeans of praise. Said by the Wikipedia editors to be written like an advertisement. The editors ask for honest editing from the Wikipedia readership.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_L._Marcus

    Networks are indispensable for getting ahead.

  3. LHunter
    March 17, 2018, 2:10 pm

    The kind of guy that kicks your cat/dog when you’re not looking and a sobbing insincere coward if caught.

    Why would tRUMP nominate a man that has done/attempted such violence to civil rights as his
    Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights ? What does tRUMP/anyone gain in doing so? (assuming for the moment that there is a plan in place regardless of whether it is a tRUMP inspired plan or someone elses).

    It’s like shooting oneself in the foot. Given his current state of affairs, tRUMP and his co-criminals should be championing civil rights – they’re there to protect all including the POTUS and his bumbling dim witted family, friends and colleagues. Me thinks tRUMP may be in desperate need of and beholden to his civil rights very soon.

    Can they all be that daft? Honestly.

  4. Keith
    March 17, 2018, 3:12 pm

    “Marcus has long opposed affirmative action, which seeks to correct past and present-day exclusion of Black students, as “racial prejudice” against white students. For Marcus, the fact that Black students are underrepresented at elite universities isn’t due to the legacy and persistence of racism, but the “cultural dysfunction” of Black families.”

    Just what we need, another Zionist Jew to defend Israel and Jewish power and privilege. From Wikipedia:

    “Later in 2011, Marcus founded the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law in order to “advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.” The following year, The Jewish Forward named him to the “Forward 50” list of American Jews who had the greatest impact on the news during the prior year, based on his innovative use of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect Jewish college and university students. In naming Marcus one of “the new faces of Jewish power,” the Forward editorialized that “if Marcus has any say in it, we may witness a new era of Jewish advocacy.
    ….
    According to the US Campaign For Palestinian Rights, Kenneth Marcus has helped file or otherwise supported Title VI discrimination complaints filed with the Department of Education. Six separate complaints have been filed against UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, Rutgers University, Barnard College, and Brooklyn College. These complaints alleged that certain activities by Palestine solidarity organizations on campus constituted violations of Title VI anti-discrimination provisions through “harassment” or “intimidation” that “targets” and creates a “hostile educational environment” for Jewish students.

    The Department of Education has dismissed four of the complaints “with written determination letters stating that the First Amendment protects speech critical of the state of Israel and that such speech does not constitute a civil rights violation.” A fifth case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence and a sixth case was settled before it was investigated. [20] In a Jerusalem Post article Marcus said that “[s]eeing all these cases rejected has been frustrating and disappointing, but we are, in fact, comforted by knowing that we are having the effect we had set out to achieve.” (Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_L._Marcus

    Since the US Congress is strongly Zionist, Marcus will likely be easily confirmed. Not to do so would leave the Congress susceptible to charges of anti-Semitism.

    • LHunter
      March 17, 2018, 3:43 pm

      Keith – Wow. Thanks for bringing that forward. His nomination may clearly be the result of Zionist advocacy. Can it be that he was nominated PRIMARILY to shut down BDS on college campuses? With Betsy at the helm of education this could lead to chaos – ACLU, Palestine Legal, and the Southern Poverty Law Center may all be busier than ever.

      • Misterioso
        March 19, 2018, 3:57 pm

        https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/americans-constitutional-boycott-israel-180315095133552.html?utm_source=Al+Jazeera+English+Newsletter+%7C+Weekly&utm_campaign=50bbce1456-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_08_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e427298a68-50bbce1456-221331725

        “Americans have a constitutional right to boycott Israel”

        “Politicians at the federal and state levels must reject AIPAC’s unconstitutional efforts to suppress the BDS movement.”
        by Josh Ruebner, Al Jazeera, March 15/18

        EXCERPT:

        “The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) concluded its annual policy conference last week with a lobbying day on Capitol Hill. High on its legislative agenda was advocating for bills that would penalise Americans for engaging in their First Amendment-protected right to boycott for Palestinian rights.

        “AIPAC conference attendees pressed their elected officials to support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD). The original, draconian version of this bill, unveiled at last year’s AIPAC conference, proposed to jail individuals for 20 years if they advanced an international organization’s call for a boycott of Israel, or even of products from its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

        “AIPAC supporters also asked their Members of Congress to back the Combating BDS Act, sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). This bill seeks to stifle the successful Palestinian civil society call for campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) as a nonviolent means to attain Palestinian freedom from more than 50 years of Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, justice for Palestinian refugees denied their right of return to the homes from which they were expelled by Israel when it was established in 1948, and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel who face dozens of discriminatory laws. Rubio’s bill encourages states to pass legislation denying contracts to individuals, associations and businesses which support BDS.

        “It should be a no-brainer that Americans can boycott whomever or whatever they choose without risking governmental punishment. After all, the Supreme Court ruled that states have no “right to prohibit peaceful political activity” such as a boycott, which is an “expression on public issues” that “has always rested on the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values”. Indeed, the recent blossoming of the #BoycottNRA movement provides renewed proof of the centrality of boycott movements in effecting social change in the United States.

        “Although both pieces of legislation initially picked up substantial support on Capitol Hill when they were introduced last year, fortunately, these blatantly unconstitutional bills have been stymied by opposition from those engaged in BDS campaigns for Palestinian rights and civil liberties organisations defending Americans’ right to boycott.”

  5. Maghlawatan
    March 17, 2018, 4:57 pm

    More than a few Trump nominees lie on a scale between Scooby Do henchman and pure evil. Devos, Pruitt and this guy for starters

  6. CigarGod
    March 18, 2018, 10:29 am

    Superiority over equality.

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