Stanford therapists allege ‘hostile climate’ for Jews in the workplace
BY GABE STUTMAN | JUNE 15, 2021
Two Jewish mental health professionals at Stanford’s on-campus counseling clinic have filed workplace discrimination complaints after what they call “severe and persistent” anti-Jewish harassment from colleagues.
Dr. Ronald Albucher, a psychiatrist and associate professor in the medical school, and Sheila Levin, a therapist specializing in eating disorders, describe being pressed into joining a “whiteness” affinity group by staffers with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program, being told they were “privileged,” and seeing antisemitic incidents downplayed.
The university responded inadequately to their concerns, made over the course of a year, Albucher and Levin say, thereby fostering a “hostile and unwelcoming environment” for Jewish employees working for Stanford’s Counseling and Psychological Services office (CAPS).
Released publicly on Tuesday, the complaints – filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing – allege violations of state and federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
At the follow-up meeting, the complaint says, DEI committee members “addressed the racist and anti-Black content” but did not mention antisemitism or the swastikas.
When Albucher asked about the omission, he was told that the committee “decided to omit any mention of anti-Semitism so as not to dominate the discussion about anti-Black racism,” the complaint says. When he brought it up again, he was accused of “trying to derail” the conversation.
DEI committee members “justified the omission of anti-Semitism,” the complaint says, “by insisting that unlike other minority groups, Jews can hide behind their white identity.” During the meeting, Albucher and Levin say they were “subjected to anti-Jewish stereotypes,” such as that Jews are “wealthy and powerful business owners.”
To discuss “White Fragility,” the complaint says, DEI members split up CAPS staff by race, facilitating “space for white staff” to “process [their] reaction” to it. The group was later named the “Whiteness Accountability group/book club.”
The complaint describes “racially segregated affinity groups that separated CAPS staff members on the basis of race or perceived race. One of these groups was for white staff, and another group was for staff comprising minorities of color.
“No affinity group was ever created for members of Jewish ancestral identity,” it continues. “As a result, there was no ‘space’ in the DEI program for Dr. Albucher and Ms. Levin to safely express their lived Jewish experience.”
On May 30, 2020, Levin emailed a DEI leader asking how she could support the program. According to the complaint, the person responded that “as a Jewish, White cis woman you have immense power and privilege. It is important to understand how you are a part of the systemic racism and oppression that takes place in this country.”
On June 24, 2020, the complaint alleges that during a seminar that Levin attended, participants “lamented that the group was comprised of privileged people,” specifically “white, pass for white and Jewish people.”
That August, Levin and Albucher notified Stanford’s HR department about the “hostile climate” they were experiencing in the DEI program, the complaint says, and the HR department tried to facilitate a mediation session between the parties. Neither Albucher nor Levin felt satisfied with the outcome, and in the fall of 2020 Levin stopped participating in the “white affinity group” because of “ongoing hostility she experienced on the basis of her race and Jewish ethnic identity,” the complaint says.
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