It’s terrifying: Students at this sizable state university who identify as Muslim and Jewish report that they don’t always feel safe.

Amidst an increase in incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia across the nation, federal agencies and university administrators are finding it difficult to strike a balance between safeguarding free speech and ensuring campus security.

Schools have frequently shown reluctance to step in and silence speech that might be interpreted as threatening by one group but as an exercise of free speech by another.

According to two administration officials who spoke with NBC News, there have been extensive discussions about striking the right balance even within the Biden administration between representatives from the White House and the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Education. Schools are reminded by the Department of Education’s recent guidance that they have a legal duty to address discrimination. The department launched investigations into four prestigious universities on Thursday for incidents of Islamophobia and antisemitism.

Students from the Muslim Student Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Hillel center for Jewish students at the University of Connecticut’s main campus in rural Storrs all reported that they had received calls from parents concerned for their safety.

Posters at Hillel depicting kidnapped Israelis vanished inexplicably one night. Subsequently, the Jewish students claim to have seen posters on campus demanding Palestine’s independence by any means necessary. Additionally, they received hostile and antisemitic comments on their Instagram post promoting a talk by a survivor of the Re’im music festival massacre.

I believe that anything related to violence has a big impact on me personally. Yana Tartakovskiy, a junior at UConn, said, “It’s very scary because I feel like words can become actions very quickly, as we’ve seen on other college campuses.” Tartakovskiy now hides her Star of David necklace to avoid being recognized as Jewish on campus.

Another concern of Muslim students is being recognized. According to Muneeb Syed, president of the Muslim Student Association, many hijab-wearing women now wear hoodies when they stroll across campus alone. He mentioned that a Muslim woman had recently been harassed by a group of men in a car who pulled over and yelled at her as she was leaving a pro-Palestinian demonstration on campus.

His female friend who covers her head when on campus said to NBC News, “My parents are definitely worried,” but she did not feel comfortable sharing who she is. They ask, “Are you sure you’re safe?” when they call me. To ensure that I don’t go out and take any chances or anything, they want to make sure I get to my dorm at a specific time.

UConn administrators have stated that they are looking into the voicemail that Maarouf received in addition to the threatening email that Muslim students received from someone on another campus. “UConn strongly denounces Islamophobia, in the same way that it denounces antisemitism and all manifestations of hatred.”

However, Muslim and Jewish students who spoke with NBC News expressed their desire for the school to take more action to recognize the events that have occurred on campus and to include students in a knowledgeable conversation about the conflict and Middle Eastern history.

“We truly hope that the university will first acknowledge to the larger UConn community that these events are occurring in the first place,” Syed stated. “We don’t think the university and the students will accept responsibility for their actions and truly start working on creating a culture that promotes diversity and inclusion until that happens.”

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