In November 2023, amid the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia at academic communities across the country, President Harry Elam convened a task force to direct the work of the college’s offices and organizations to prevent or address the occurrence of such activity at Occidental College.

The Task Force on Promoting Community and Safety is co-chaired by Associate Dean of Students Vivian Garay Santiago and Dean of the College Wendy Sternberg. It seeks to draw upon input from students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and advocates to address the ongoing needs of our community.

About the Task Force

Related & Upcoming Events

The Task Force will direct projects and initiatives consistent with the areas of focus laid out below.

Support for Oxy Students

In collaboration with Occidental’s Office for Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL), Oxy Hillel, the office of Student Leadership Involvement and Community Engagement (SLICE), and Jewish student life advisors, as well as other Jewish students, parents, alumni, and allies, the College will pursue several initiatives to promote Jewish and Israeli students’ wellbeing and sense of safety on campus. 

College leadership and ORSL will continue to meet with the Muslim Students Association and others to identify ways to uplift Muslim and MENA students on campus, including support for their dietary needs and enhanced devotional spaces.

Educational Outreach

Through the Civil Rights & Title IX Office and Bias Education and Support Team (BEST), the College will launch a preventative, educational campaign to address potential antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bias or harassment on campus. This campaign will include: assessment of the current campus environment and potential for harassment; offering training opportunities for students, faculty, and staff related to identifying, preventing, and reporting antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of harassment; and development of educational materials specifically related to combating antisemitism and Islamophobia. The Civil Rights & Title IX Office and BEST will also continue to promptly respond to any individual complaints they receive, consistent with their respective procedures.

Before students return to campus for the spring semester, they will be required to complete an online course on defining diversity, equity and inclusion, identifying categories of difference, and exploring microaggressions and unconscious bias. A similar course for faculty and staff will be made available for voluntary completion later in the spring semester. Additionally, the task force’s educational outreach working group will be offering a variety of educational opportunities throughout the semester, including:

  • A webinar series covering a variety of topics applicable to faculty and staff.
  • Multiple online and in-person opportunities to learn how to identify and intervene when acts of antisemitic, Islamophobic, or xenophobic bias or harassment occur.
  • A variety of new educational materials distributed across campus.

Upcoming educational events

Restorative Conversations

The College will sponsor or promote various forums for restorative interactions among students, primarily, as well as other members of the Occidental community, which will include welcoming Interfaith America to campus on January 25 and 26. The Interfaith America team will host a series of listening sessions designed to create space for diverse viewpoints to be heard in a neutral setting, and will return recommendations for enhancing interfaith cooperation and bridge-building on campus.

Accountability and Support for Student Organizations and Political Activity

In partnership with SLICE, the Facilities Department, the Office of Student Conduct, and Campus Safety, the College reaffirms its commitment to enforcing the Code of Student Conduct, Posting & Publicity Policy, Right to Dissent & Demonstration Policy, and Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Policy, among other core policies. 

SLICE will coordinate training sessions with student organizations to promote their understanding of College policies and provide information on how to engage in political activism consistent with those policies. 

Individuals or groups who engage in threatening, destructive, harassing, or otherwise impermissible behavior will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. The Office of Student Conduct and the Civil Rights & Title IX Office will continue to promptly address reports that are submitted to their offices, while keeping individual cases confidential.The College also reaffirms its repudiation of doxxing, encourages students and faculty to learn more about protecting their online presence and to immediately report any safety concerns, and will respond to reports of online harassment or doxxing by College community members.

Academic Engagement

Academic departments including sociology, history, politics, diplomacy and world affairs, and the McKinnon Center for Global Affairs have scheduled a series of educational speaker events throughout the spring semester. Details will be shared via email and other campus communications. 

In addition, faculty are exploring how to expand curricular offerings in this area, and to this end, we encourage and support the development of new interdisciplinary minor programs that will expand the range of our academic discourse about the region. 

Building Capacity for Change

The College is seeking to partner with donors and organizations that are interested in promoting a greater understanding of antisemitism and Islamophobia, as well as those who are committed particularly to supporting expansion of Occidental’s related curricular offerings.

Policy Review and Implementation

The College will issue a clarifying policy related to appropriate use of College-affiliated social media accounts, to ensure that such accounts are reviewed by responsible personnel and used to promote the College’s programs and activities. The College will also review the Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Policy in light of recent guidance from the Office for Civil Rights, to ensure that the policy adequately addresses the trend of increasing antisemitism and Islamophobia on College campuses. The College will also review our policies and resources related to doxxing and online harassment.

Contact the Task Force

If you would like to get in touch with the Task Force, please fill out the online form.

Community Resources

Reporting Resources
Related Offices & On-Campus Support

Related Messages to the Community

Promoting Safety and Community (Nov. 30, 2023)

Ongoing Support from BEST and the Civil Rights & Title IX Office (Nov. 30, 2023)

Rights, Responsibilities, and the Fabric of Community (Nov. 10)

Drawing on the Culture of Care in Difficult Times (Oct. 13)

Decrying Violence in Israel and Gaza (Oct. 10)

Messages from the Task Force


Registration Open for Jan. 25-26 Interfaith America Sessions

Interfaith America will facilitate several listening sessions for Occidental College students, faculty, and staff on January 25 and 26.

Welcoming Interfaith America to Campus Jan. 25-26

Opportunities for community dialogue include important events on January 25 and 26, when Occidental welcomes Interfaith America to campus to facilitate a series of listening sessions for students, faculty, and staff.

Some Thoughts and Well Wishes for the New Year

President Elam sent the following message to students prior to the winter break.

Task Force on Promoting Community and Safety Web Resources

The task force has made progress in identifying resources and organizing services related to the charge of preventing instances of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of potential harassment within the Occidental College community. Resources include a dedicated informational website.