Hindu American Foundation wants University investigated for role in alleged ‘Hinduphobic’ conference


The advocacy organization, Hindu American Foundation, filed a Title VI complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights against the University of Pennsylvania for what it alleges is the part UPenn played in co-sponsoring the Dismantling Global Hindutva (DGH) conference which took place September 10–12, 2021, as well as an alleged pattern of condoning hostility towards Hindu students and faculty.

The HAF in its letter (copy of which was included in the Oct. 6, 2021 press release) to Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement Randolph Wills today, HAF has asked the Office of Civil Rights to:

“Investigate and determine whether the University of Pennsylvania and University of Pennsylvania’s Department of South Asia Studies, South Asia Center (a National Resource Center), and key associated faculty created a hostile environment for students and faculty of Indian and Hindu descent, and whether the same entities and individuals misused any federal funds by 1) planning, sponsoring, hosting, and/or participating in a one sided conference about India and Hindus which promoted negative stereotypes, slurs, and distorted facts; and 2) developing and promoting a “harassment field manual” that promotes negative stereotypes, slurs, and distorted facts about Hindus, denies Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu hatred, and specifically targets Hindu students for censure and marginalization in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VI of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.”

According to HAF, under Title VI, programs and activities receiving any Federal financial assistance from the US Department of Education must operate in a non-discriminatory manner in regards to “race, color, or national origin.”

According to Suhag Shukla, executive director of HAF, “Prior to the DGH conference, thousands of letters of concern, including our own, were received by the University of Pennsylvania, informing the university that despite disclaimers alleging that “dismantling” Hinduism was not an aim of the conference, the featured speakers and their history of anti-Hindu activism, meant that the event would be one-sided and likely endorse negative stereotypes, slurs, and distorted facts about Hindus.”

“We asked the University to ensure that it not create a hostile environment for Hindu students and faculty that make them vulnerable to censure, harassment, or retaliation by associating itself with anti-Hindu rhetoric that this event would promote — as it, in fact, did. These calls were ignored, leaving us no choice but to pursue a formal complaint with the Department of Education,” Shukla added.

The HAF is seeking the following actions from the University of Pennsylvania:

“1) A public statement condemning the negative stereotypes, slurs, and distorted facts promoted at the conference as well as in the field manual;  2) An acknowledgement of the existence of Hinduphobia and anti-Hindu hatred, and expression of zero-tolerance of the same; 3) A public restatement of commitment to open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive engagement with diverging perspectives; 4) Mandatory training on rights and responsibilities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Higher Education Opportunity Act and greater oversight of the South Asia Center at Penn, and its use of federal assistance; 5) Sharing of support services for Hindu students and faculty facing hostility, harassment, or retaliation.”



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