State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal were joined by fellow lawmakers and community advocates outside of Queens College on Tuesday, Sept. 20, to announce new legislation to improve the reporting and investigating of hate crimes on college campuses.
Stavisky and Rosenthal were joined by Senators John Liu and Leroy Comrie, and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, along with representatives from the Asian American Federation, The Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, The Queens Jewish Community Council and The Chabad on Campus at Queens College.
According to the lawmakers, New York’s current statute has not been updated in nearly two decades and does not reflect significant advancements in technology.
The bill (S. 9552) will update the current law by requiring all colleges to report bias crimes on their website and that it be reported in a separate, clearly designated category of crime.
“We must make sure New York’s diverse college campuses are safe spaces for students of all races, ethnicities and creeds. Unfortunately, the recent spread of disgraceful and harmful public rhetoric has led to a disturbing rise in acts of hate across our state and our nation,” said Stavisky, a sponsor of the Senate bill and chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
The legislation will arm students with important crime statistics for the campuses they call home and make sure these incidents are more clearly identified and easily available, according to Stavisky.
“Currently, the law talks about college catalogs and student handbooks, which are obsolete, while our proposed legislation requires colleges to put it on their website,” Stavisky said.
Rosenthal, who has sponsored the bill in the Assembly, reiterated that New York continues to see a dangerous rise in hate crimes, including triple digit increases of antisemitic attacks.
“Sadly, college campuses are not the exception to the growing recurrence of these heinous attacks. I am proud to sponsor this important piece of legislation alongside Senator Stavisky which will shed light on the frequency of hate-related attacks by requiring public disclosure of offenses motivated by bigotry that occur on college campuses,” Rosenthal said. “We must not allow for hate to continue to spread, particularly at places of higher education.”
Rozic, who represents Queens College, said the legislation is a step to curbing hate on campus.
“With alarming rates of hate on college campuses, students need to feel safe without worrying about antisemitism, racism and xenophobia,” Rozic said.
According to Liu, as long as hate crimes and bias related incidents continue to impact the lives of New Yorkers, the lawmakers must ensure that students and faculty on college campuses are best equipped to respond to these incidents whenever they arise.
“Making hate crime information publicly accessible and establishing support services on campuses will provide students and faculty a new tool to combat hate and bias in any form,” Liu said.
With hate crimes on the uptick in the city and bomb threats being levied at campuses around the nation, Comrie said the bill will be a “critical tool to provide data on how resources are allocated on things from law enforcement response to support services in our institutions of higher learning.”
“Our educational spaces should be safe for everyone who attends or visits them and preventative, precautionary and protective measures are more important than ever,” Comrie said.
Representatives of the organizations in attendance at the press conference thanked Stavisky and Rosenthal for their leadership in keeping students safe on college campuses.
“Queens College students are wonderful. Campus is very diverse, and students craft deep, meaningful friendships with a wide variety of students and faculty. We have been actively working with the administration for the past 18 years,” said Rabbi Shaul Wertheimer, of Chabad on Campus of Queens College. “Antisemitism erodes the fabric of American society, and with the international rise in antisemitism, there is a lot more to be done to make sure that every Jewish student and supporters of the Jewish community continues to feel comfortable on campus.”
As hate crimes and bias incidents continue to plague the Asian community, the Asian American Federation (AAF) said the lawmakers’ bill provides a pathway toward “transparency, so colleges can respond to hate and violence and make Asian communities on their campuses feel safe.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center said it’s a tragic sign of the times that such legislation is necessary.
“Earlier this year, CUNY was unable to provide the number of antisemitic attacks that had occurred on their campuses. We cannot help solve a situation until we know the extent of the problem. Jews on campus deserve the same protections afforded to other minorities and this legislation is an important step in that direction,” a representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said.
StandWithUs, an international nonprofit organization fighting antisemitism and supporting Israel, said, “This legislation will help ensure that hate crimes are better reported and addressed on college campuses statewide.”
Gideon Taylor, of the Jewish Community Relations Council of NY, said it’s truly unfortunate that a climate of fear pervades so many college campuses.
“This legislation requiring colleges to collect data on hate crimes occurring on their campuses and report them on their websites will enable our elected officials and education professionals to address these issues with accurate data,” Gideon said.