Kenneth L. Marcus

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Kenneth L. Marcus is the Lillie and Nathan Ackerman Chair in Equality and Justice in America at Baruch College of the City University of New York and Founding President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law. Formerly, he was staff director at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.[1]

Marcus was credited by the Wall Street Journal with having taken "an agency in disarray" that lacked "basic management controls," and turned it into an agency that "deserves a medal for good governance." [2]

He was also noted for instituting a policy under which the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights would consider civil rights complaints from groups, like Muslims, Jews and Sikhs, that combine religious and ethnic characteristics, who can now sue for discrimination under Title VI because of their ethnic (but not religious) traits. [3][4] As director at the U.S. Commission on Civil rights, Ken L. Marcus instituted a number of important changes and his successors continued the work that he had begun in reinvigorating the agency. With Marcus, the administration started taking a stronger approach to enforcing civil-rights laws. [5] During his term, he issued guidance reminding schools of the need to have a Title IX officer and clarifying that Title VI also protected students of faith from discrimination. Marcus' work spearheaded OCR's efforts to better enforce and protect civil-right laws in America. [6]


Kenneth L. Marcus received a Bachelor of Arts, Magna Cum Laude, from Williams College in June 1988. He was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in June 1987. He received a Juris Doctor from University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Boalt Hall in 1991.[7]

Berkeley Three Case[edit]

Early in his career, Marcus served as lead counsel for the so-called "Berkeley Three," a group of neighborhood activists in Berkeley, California, who sued the federal officials of the U.S. Department of Education for investigating why they criticized a housing project in their neighborhood. In collaboration with the Center for Individual Rights, Marcus prevailed in this First Amendment lawsuit before a federal district court. This victory was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. [8] In a unanimous opinion, the Ninth Circuit held that the investigating officials “could not have reasonably believed their actions to be consistent with the First Amendment.” Civil libertarians hailed the decision as “good news for friends of free speech” and a “decisive rebuke” to HUD. National publicity regarding this case forced HUD to change its policy on fair housing investigations.[9]

Fair Housing Enforcement[edit]

After resolving the Berkeley Three case, Marcus left private practice to serve in various roles in the administration of President George W. Bush, beginning as General Deputy Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. In this role, Marcus announced stepped-up enforcement against lending discrimination and announced a reduction in the agency’s aged-case backlog from 80 percent down to 37.1 percent. He also announced new initiatives to address predatory lending, as well as enhanced attention to housing problems faced by persons in the Southwest border area. During his tenure, HUD claimed to increased the number of accessible housing units for a person with a disability by over 1200 through major cases in the District of Columbia and Boston. [10]

Marcus also joined with Department of Justice officials to announce the resolution of various high-profile disabilities lawsits. For example, in a La Vegas case, a developer was made to pay $350,000 to retrofit a condominium complex to bring it into compliance with the Fair Housing Act and to compensate disabled persons who were harmed by the complex’s lack of accessible features. [11] In an Idaho case investigated under Marcus’ supervision led to the retrofitting an eighteen unit apartment complex to make it accessible to persons with disabilities and the payment of an additional $48,000 in damages and penalties. [12]

Office for Civil Rights[edit]

Later in the administration of President George W. Bush, Marcus was delegated the authority of Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office for Civil Rights (2003-2004) and served as Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (2004-2008) [13] At OCR, Marcus developed an initiative to address the misdiagnosis of racial and ethnic minorities in special education, as well as issuing regulations and guidance to address Title IX grievance procedures, religious minorities, racially segregated school activities, single-sex classrooms, and patriotic youth organizations.

In May 2004, Marcus issued a letter admonishing recipients of federal education funds that they must fully comply with Title IX and designate a Title IX coordinator. Members of the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCGWE), had urged the Office for Civil Rights to issue such guidance to strengthen Title IX. The Office for Civil Rights had found that some institutions were not complying with the Title IX requirement that every recipient of federal funding designate and adequately train at least one Title IX coordinator. Feminist advocates praised this measure as an “important letter,” explaining that it would “help students, teachers, and parents know who to contact for advice and complaints in their own pre-schools and elementary and secondary schools as well as post secondary institutions.” [14]

Marcus joined with then-Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Rene Alexander Acosta to issue guidance warning school districts to cease racially segregated activities. Their joint letter warned that practices such as holding segregated high school proms or naming separate race-based sets of recipients for senior-year honors (such as homecoming queen) “are inconsistent with federal law and should not be tolerated.” [15]

In perhaps his most famous policy pronouncement, Marcus issued guidance clarifying that the Office for Civil Rights would protect the rights of ethnic groups that also share a religious faith, to the same extent as if they did not share a common faith. The policy has been applied to Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh students. This policy has been described as “groundbreaking” but also “controversial.” [16]

In October 2004, Marcus issued regulations clarifying the legal limitations on single-sex classrooms and schools. [17] [18] They amended the regulations implementing Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments in order to provide greater flexibility for schools to offer single-sex public elementary and secondary education.

Marcus also issued regulations implementing the Boy Scouts of America Act and formally submitted them for public notice and comment. The regulations guarantee equal access to public school facilities for the Boy Scouts of America and other patriotic youth groups. The regulations enforce the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, which requires federally-funded public schools to provide certain patriotic youth organizations under federal law (including, among others, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. and Little League Baseball, Inc., as well as the Boy Scouts) with equal access to school facilities as compared to other outside groups. Congress had passed the Boy Scouts Act as part of the No Child Left Behind statute and charged the Office for Civil Rights with enforcing the law. On October 13, 2004, Marcus announced the proposed regulations in a ceremony at Ellen Smith Elementary School in Conway, Arkansas. Marcus was joined by then-Assistant Secretary of Education Ray Simon and then-Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. [19]

Academic Career[edit]

After he left government, Marcus served as the Lillie and Nathan Ackerman Visiting Professor of Equality and Justice in America at the City University of New York Baruch College School of Public Affairs. He taught courses on Diversity Management, Anti-Semitism and Civil Rights Law, and Law for the Education Administrator. He also oversaw the Ackerman Lecture Series, which invites intellectuals and public figures to spur debate and new thinking on equality and social justice. During this period he was named one of the Top 100 Twitterers in Academia. [20]

While serving on the CUNY faculty, Marcus also directed an anti-Semitism program at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. In 2011, he filed a high-profile but unsuccessful civil rights complaint against Barnard College, alleging that a faculty member had unlawfully “steered” a student away from taking a class from a professor who had created a hostile environment for Jewish students. [21]

Public Interest Advocacy[edit]

Later in 2011, Marcus founded the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law in order to "advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all." The following year, The Jewish Forward named him to the "Forward 50" list of American Jews who had the greatest impact on the news during the prior year, based on his innovative use of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect Jewish college and university students. In naming Marcus one of "the new faces of Jewish power," the Forward editorialized that "if Marcus has any say in it, we may witness a new era of Jewish advocacy. [22]



  • The Definition of Anti-Semitism, Oxford University Press, 2015
  • Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America, Cambridge University Press, 2010


  • "The Second Mutation: Israel and Political Anti-Semitism", inFocus Spring 2008 • Vol. II: No. 1
  • "Anti-Zionism as Racism: Campus Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act of 1964", February 2007 issue of the William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal (pp. 837-891, published by the students of the William and Mary Law School)
  • “The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism on American College Campuses", Current Psychology, Vol. 26, Nos. 3 & 4, 2007
  • “The Most Important Right We Think We Have But Don't: Freedom from Religious Discrimination in Education". Nevada Law Journal, Vol. 7, p. 171, 2006
  • "Jurisprudence of the New Anti-Semitism", Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 44, 2009.

Research: Testimony[edit]


  1. ^ Bush Appoints Kenneth Marcus '91 as Director of U.S. Civil Rights Commission
  2. ^ Civil Rights Commission Director to Step Down | Reuters
  3. ^ Title VI and Title IX Religious Discrimination in Schools and Colleges
  4. ^ Mitchell Langbert's Blog: Kenneth L. Marcus's "Anti-Zionism as Racism: Campus Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act of 1964"
  5. ^]
  6. ^ "Champion of Civil Rights: Kenneth L. Marcus," Baruch Alumni (Spring 2010), p. 25.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Henry K. Lee, SFGate, "Berkeley Neighbors Suit Against HUD Staff Upheld," September 28, 2000
  9. ^ Jeremy Rabkin, “Developers Nail Free Speech,” The American Spectator, December 1, 2000,
  10. ^ “Fighting Discrimination Against the Disabled and Minorities Through Fair Housing Enforcement,” Joint Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Financial Services, U.S. House of Representatives, June 25, 2002,
  11. ^ “Developer pays $350,000 in housing access suit,” Ragged Edge Online, February 27, 2002,
  13. ^ "Kenneth L. Marcus, Ackerman Visiting Professor of Equality and Justice in America at Baruch College,"
  14. ^ “Some Federal Funding Recipients Not Complying With Title IX,” Feminist News (May 26, 2004),
  15. ^ Caroline Hendrie, “U.S. Warns Schools on Racially Separate Activities,” October 12, 2004,
  16. ^ Anne Herzberg, “Protecting Jews from Campus Antisemitism,” SPME Monitor,
  17. ^ Michelle R. Davis, “Bush Has Own View of Promoting Civil Rights,” Education Week,
  18. ^ Rebecca A. Kiselewich, “In Defense of the 2006 Title IX Regulations for Single-Sex Public Education: How Separate Can Be Equal,49 B.C.L. Rev. 217 (2008),
  19. ^ “Paige Proposes Regulations to Enforce Boy Scouts of America Act,” October 13, 2004,
  20. ^ "Champion of Civil Rights: Kenneth L. Marcus," Baruch Alumni (Spring 2010), p. 25.
  21. ^ "Forward 50 2012: Ken Marcus,""
  22. ^ "Forward 50 2012: Ken Marcus,""