The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law filed a federal civil rights complaint against UC Santa Barbara on May 16 for being complicit in “persistent anti-Semitic bullying and harassment,” on behalf of Associated Students President Tessa Veksler. The complaint was filed to the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education.

UCSB Media Relations Manager Kiki Reyes said the University plans to work with the Department of Education to address all reports made, in a statement to the Nexus.

“The university is committed to supporting our students and to investigating and addressing all reports made to it. We look forward to working with the Department of Education,” the statement read.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is a nonprofit legal advocacy firm committed to “advanc[ing] the civil and human rights of the Jewish people,” according to their website.

The complaint alleges the University left fourth-year communication and political science double major Veksler vulnerable to online attacks and targeting within student government for her Jewish identity and alignment with Zionism.

“Students have targeted Ms. Veksler publicly and relentlessly on social media and at her student government office, proclaiming that ‘Zionists are not allowed’ and ‘Zionists are not welcomed’ on campus, and threatening that ‘you can run but you can’t hide, Tessa Veksler,’” the complaint read. “Despite its knowledge of the harassment, UCSB has failed to promptly address the harassment and eliminate the impact of the hostile climate on campus for Ms. Veksler.”

Veksler did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Images of the MCC signage. Courtesy of the Brandeis Center

Brandeis Center Director of Legal Initiatives Denise Katz-Prober and Staff Attorney Matthew Mainen are representing Veksler in the complaint filed to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education, requesting an investigation on the grounds that UCSB has violated Title VI policies.

Title VI “prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance,” according to the Department of Education. 

In the complaint, the Brandeis Center also references 2019 Executive Order 13899 which specifically prohibits “discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI.”

The Brandeis Center’s complaint is not the first of its kind to hit UCSB this year, as a Discrimination Complaint Form was filed to the OCR on Feb. 29 on behalf of “Jewish students of UC Santa Barbara and [the] entire Jewish community,” according to Department of Education documentation and email correspondence with Chancellor Henry T. Yang obtained by the Nexus.

The Nexus was unable to confirm who filed the February complaint due to redactions within the documentation. The complaint cited the MultiCultural Center (MCC) Instagram and signage, dorm vandalism and alleged harassment of Jewish groups as evidence of the University’s negligence. According to the complaint form, they are seeking removal of “faculty who ‘educate’ for hate and are involved in other political activity,” “disciplin[ing] the perpetrators” and teaching inclusion of Jewish people as the remedy.

The May 16 complaint claimed that Veksler has been victim to harassment from her peers for the past seven months since posting a story in solidarity with Israel after the Oct. 7 attack by militant group Hamas, a trend the Brandeis Center claims has developed in universities across the country.

“The manner in which Ms. Veksler has been targeted reflects a pattern of mistreatment that Jewish students are facing on college campuses across the country when they express aspects of their identity connected to Israel and Zionism,” the complaint read.

Multiple screenshots of the pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist signage posted at the MCC on Feb. 26, including images of signs expressing dissent against Veksler specifically, were included as evidence in the filed complaint. The complaint states the University allowed these signs to be further circulated on social media through the MCC’s official Instagram account, which was temporarily shut down alongside the MCC the day the posts were made.

“Students posted signs throughout the Multicultural Center (‘MCC’), where Ms. Veksler’s student government office is located, threatening her and making it clear Ms. Veksler is unwelcome on campus and should be excluded because she is a Zionist,” the complaint read. “The harassment directed at Ms. Veksler was further publicized to the student body community when photographs were posted on UCSB MCC’s official Instagram account spotlighting the signage.”

Other instances evidenced in the complaint include screenshots of Instagram story posts and direct messages expressing dissent against Veksler, an incident of doxxing on March 5 in which a student leaked Veksler’s personal phone number on Instagram and the vandalism of an Associated Students (A.S.) poster including Veksler’s photograph on April 9.

“Ms. Veksler’s peers also posted demeaning messages and issued veiled threats on social media, stating for instance: ‘You are disgusting. Zionists are NOT welcome in the MCC. We will not back down and we WILL take action;’ and ‘PLZ GO. WE DONT LIKE ZIONISTS,’” the complaint read.

The Brandeis Center claimed that the signage intended to marginalize Veksler and target her identity as a Jewish student.

“Another harassing post about Ms. Veksler stated ‘fuck your white comfort in stealing a multicultural center,’ thereby erasing Ms. Veksler’s Jewish identity by implying that Jews are not entitled to be included with other groups that have a shared ancestral and ethnic heritage who are part of UCSB’s multicultural space on campus,” the complaint read.

According to the Brandeis Center, Veksler first reported instances of harassment to the Equal Opportunity & Discrimination Prevention Office in a Dec. 10 email, but was met with three months of delay before receiving a response from the University regarding the MCC, rather than her claims of harassment based on her Jewish identity.

“In its delayed response, the University referenced more recent events at the MCC and said it was removing unapproved messages ‘from locations that are not approved for messages of any kind,’” the complaint read. “But there was no indication that the University had undertaken meaningful action during the previous 3 months to address Ms. Veksler’s prior report of ongoing harassment based on her Jewish identity.”

The complaint also said the University’s response to the events at the MCC did nothing to condemn the antisemitism Veksler had been facing for over four months at that point.

“The University’s February 26th statement failed to specifically mention and condemn the anti-Jewish hostility and targeted harassment directed at Ms. Veksler and the exclusion of Jews from the MCC on the basis of shared ancestry connected to Israel,” the complaint read. “Moreover, the statement failed to acknowledge and denounce the harassment at the MCC as an escalation and continuation of the targeted campaign of harassment against Ms. Veksler that had been ongoing for over 4 months.”

After the events at the MCC, UCSB administration announced a UC Systemwide Office of Civil Rights, a new anti-discrimination policy and condemned alleged antisemitic incidents on campus.

“These reprehensible incidents are currently under investigation, but as a campus, we must be clear that antisemitism and discrimination of any kind, including any efforts to intimidate, harass, or discriminate against members of our community, will not be tolerated,” the email read.

Within the complaint, Veksler said the harassment and threats she received have had damaging effects on her mental health, causing panic attacks and fear for her safety on campus to the point of taking her Fall Quarter 2023 final exams online. She also said it undermined her ability to lead the student body as A.S. President and adversely affected her academic performance.

The complaint calls for UCSB to conduct a full investigation into the alleged antisemitism Veksler has faced, do outreach in support of the broader UCSB Jewish community and revise UCSB’s anti-discrimination policies to align with Executive Order 13899. It also calls for UCSB to provide training on antisemitism to campus administration and issue a statement condemning the harassment of students on the basis of their “Jewish shared ancestry and ethnicity connected to Israel.”

“The University has not publicly and specifically condemned the efforts to bully and intimidate Ms. Veksler on the basis of her Jewish identity,” the complaint read. “It is therefore clear that the university has failed to stop the harassment or adequately address the hostile environment, and further, that the University lacks a competent resolution process for addressing violations of the sort Ms. Veksler has faced.”

The Nexus will continue to report on this topic as more information becomes available.

A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the May 23, 2024 print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Anushka Ghosh Dastidar
Anushka Ghosh Dastidar (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. Previously, Ghosh Dastidar was the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2023-24 school year and the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at or