Trump Nominates Kenneth Marcus to Lead Office for Civil Rights - Higher Education
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Trump Nominates Kenneth Marcus to Lead Office for Civil Rights

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The Trump administration has nominated a civil rights and Jewish advocate to a top position with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

Kenneth L. Marcus

Kenneth L. Marcus is the president and director of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and a visiting professor at Baruch College of the City University of New York. He will serve as the assistant secretary for civil rights under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, according to a White House statement on Thursday.

The Brandeis Center is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that seeks “to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all,” according to its website. The center also notes a particular concern for anti-Semitic activity in postsecondary education.

“The leading civil and human rights challenge facing North American Jewry is the resurgent problem of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on university campuses,” the Brandeis Center states in the vision statement on its website.  “This social problem requires an immediate, effective and coordinated legal response.”

In a statement, Brandeis Center vice president Rachel Lerman said, “We’re grateful to Kenneth Marcus for founding the Louis D. Brandeis Center and building it, over the course of six years, into a premier civil rights agency with an impact in Washington, D.C., around the country, and across the world, that is vastly disproportionate to its size and age.” According to Lerman, the center has established chapters at 18 law schools. Marcus founded the center in 2011.

Marcus is no stranger to the OCR, having previously served as assistant secretary of education for civil rights from 2003 to 2004 under President George W. Bush. He subsequently served as the staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2004 to 2008.

In addition to his work with the Bush administration and work in higher ed, Marcus also served as the director of the Initiative on Anti-Semitism at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco.

Under DeVos, OCR has focused on issues relating to Title IX and campus sexual misconduct. The sub-agency has been led by Candice Jackson in her capacity as acting assistant secretary for civil rights. A department spokesperson said on Thursday that she will serve as deputy assistant secretary for strategic operations and outreach if Marcus is confirmed.

Jackson came under fire after a July interview with the New York Times in which she said that “90 percent” of sexual assault complaints were the result of drunken hookups or breakups gone awry. She subsequently apologized for her remarks, but rape survivors, advocates and Democratic members of Congress have called for her removal.

Staff writer Catherine Morris can be reached at cmorris@diverseeducation.com.

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