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VICTOR JOECKS: Antisemitic rot at UNLV alleged in lawsuit

What the public has seen is disturbing enough. But a lawsuit alleges the antisemitism facing Jewish students at UNLV is far more pervasive than previously known.

Last week, UNLV student Corey Gerwaski sued his school. He is a “devout Jew firm in his Jewish beliefs and ideology” and wears a kippah, or skullcap.

Beginning in June 2023, he went through an onboarding process for his job at the UNLV Lied Library. He was asked “inappropriate questions about his Jewish heritage,” the lawsuit said. He alleges he was fired from his job in the UNLV library in August 2023. He blames “disparate treatment and antisemitism that was exhibited by supervisors.” This was before the Oct. 7 terrorist attack that emboldened Jew haters around the country.

In December, Gerwaski went to the library to study. The person who fired him then called the police. “This person, whose antisemitic views are well-known, claimed Corey posed a threat simply by entering the building,” the lawsuit alleges.

Gerwaski alleges he faced “hostility and discriminatory conduct” while serving in student government and inappropriately had his pay cut in half. He also said members of the Nevada Palestine Liberation group verbally accosted him because of his kippah. That included telling him, “ ‘Go back to the oven, you (expletive) Jew.’” Other Jewish students have faced “an unsafe and hostile environment on campus.”

At the moment these are allegations. UNLV and others must have a chance to defend themselves. But the legal risk is both obvious and massive.

Coincidentally or not, UNLV President Keith Whitfield is finally trying to do some damage control. In a statement put out over the weekend, he wrote it was “incorrect” that the school “would consider divesting” from investments with ties to Israel.

That’s a welcome stance. It’s also a reversal from the tone he took in a memo last month about his meeting with the UNLV chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. He wrote, “I did say we would speak with the Investment Committee of the UNLV Foundation to better understand our investment strategies.” Amazing what a lawsuit can do.

This weekend, Whitfield wrote, “We will not tolerate any form of prejudice, discrimination, threatening behavior, harassment, bullying or intimidation” that disrupts education. He advised anyone experiencing such abuse to report it. “I will not hesitate to get our university police involved,” he pledged.

That sounds nice, but the words ring hollow. In February, pro-Hamas protesters at UNLV shouted down an Israeli physics professor giving a guest lecture. UNLV police were called, but they escorted the physics professor off campus, supposedly for his safety. That’s detailed in the lawsuit, too.

Whitfield also wrote that he takes “very seriously the concerns of any student who feels unsafe.”

This is the problem. As the lawsuit lays out, antisemites claim the mere presence of Jews makes them feel unsafe. Jewish students understandably disagree.

A university president should be able to figure out the just course without a lawsuit forcing his hand. Whitfield failed this test of leadership. He should resign or be fired before his moral cowardice exposes UNLV to more legal liability.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on X.

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