OCAD University student Samantha Kline is seeking $1 million in damages—alleging a lack of protection from antisemitic threats and abuse

Samantha Kline at a press conference at OCAD University, May 28, 2024.

A student at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) is suing the school for over $1 million for failing to protect her from antisemitic discrimination.

Samantha Kline, 22, who was a student at the Toronto university from 2019 to 2024, alleges that over the last few years, and especially since Oct. 7, that she has been subjected to threats and abuse—and that the school has not upheld its duty to protect Kline and other Jewish students from hatred, intimidation and harassment.

“When I first applied to OCAD, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. The thought of being able to study my love for art was a dream come true. I never imagined that the campus, which I once viewed with such eagerness, would become a place I never wanted to return to,” Kline said at a press conference outside the school on May 28.

“Attending OCAD was supposed to be a fulfilling and enriching experience, but it turned into a source of deep pain and trauma. All I wanted was a normal university experience, but it seems that for Jews, this is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. My time there, which I had hoped would be filled with learning and growth, became overshadowed by experiences I could never have anticipated, resulting in not being able to finish my degree in person,” she said.

The lawsuit, which was filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on May 22 includes $1 million for aggravated and/or punitive damages; $300,000 for breach of contract and negligence; $25,000 for a breach of Ontario’s Human Rights Code, and a refund of Kline’s tuition payments to the school.

None of the claims have been tested in court.

The lawsuit is also claiming an injunctive relief from the court that would require OCAD to “create and/or enforce its own rules, policies and codes of conduct regarding anti-Jewish discrimination, intimidation, harassment, hate speech and unlawful assemblies.”

The abuse has gotten so bad that Kline has been forced to hire private security and eventually resorted to finishing her semester online, she has said. She will also be missing her graduation ceremony.

The lawsuit includes multiple examples of how OCAD failed to protect Kline and other Jewish students from antisemitic harassment. It states that in late October, the school explicitly gave permission to students to advertise a protest calling for an intifada.

Additionally, the suit alleges, OCAD did not take effective action to prevent verbal and written abuse directed at Kline and other Jewish students that included statements like “Fuck you Jew,” “Fuck the Jews,” “Jews deserve everything that is happening to them,” “Go back to Europe where you came from,” and more. 

Among the instances of written abuse were messages that singled out Kline by name. On the walls of a stairwell at the school on which students were encouraged to express themselves, multiple messages were addressed directly at Kline and a friend of hers, including some that were violent or sexual.

Samantha Kline graffiti
Some of the graffiti at OCAD singling out Samantha Kline (photo from Samantha Kline)

Although the abuse escalated after Oct. 7, Kline says antisemitism at OCAD has been an ongoing issue for years. In April 2022, Kline was running a Passover booth as the president of the Jewish club on campus. In response, students and faculty who were part of a political science course at the school set up a fake Gaza checkpoint that people would need to walk through in order to reach the Passover booth.

Kline tried to confront them about it, but was met with backlash, she said. Later that day, she got a call from someone who was genuinely concerned about her, telling her that she would not be safe on campus. The next time Kline came to school, she was accompanied by private security.

OCAD fake checkpoint
The fake checkpoint that OCAD students and faculty set up in front of the Jewish student group’s Passover booth (photo from Samantha Kline)

Kline has kept trying to get OCADU to support and protect her, but they continue to be negligent in their duties to her, she said in an interview with The CJN.

“The president of the university essentially stopped answering my emails and declined to even help me out after a certain point, even after my name was written on the walls,” she said

And the office of Diversity, Equity, and Sustainability Initiatives was even less helpful.

“They weren’t answering my emails even before October 7th. We’ve gone into meetings with them and they just tell us that we’re oppressors and white supremacists. If they’re the office of diversity and inclusivity, and they’re being paid for by the government… as well as my tuition that’s going into this, it’s terrible. Like, who am I supposed to go to?” she said.

Kline hopes her lawsuit will make OCAD and all university campuses safer for Jewish students going forward.

“I want policies made and I want things to change because I should be the last student that this happens to. This should not continue and with a rise in antisemitism, unfortunately, this is continuing everywhere. So this is something that I’m making a claim to in order to help other Jewish students.

“I want antisemitism training. I want IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism) to be adopted. I want the office of (Diversity, Equity, and Sustainability Initiatives) to be investigated as well as the other offices that failed me or that were ignoring me.

“There’s no policies in place for antisemitism. They have policies in place for everything else except for antisemitism. The one little policy that they do have is just them adding in the word in the policy against racism, it has nothing to do with antisemitism.”

Jay Solomon, chief advancement officer for Hillel Ontario, echoed Kline’s concerns about OCAD’s treatment of her situation.

“The appalling way in which Samantha was targeted at OCAD, unfortunately, follows an alarming and unacceptable pattern that Hillel is tracking across Ontario campuses whereby Jewish students are singled out and demonized for simply being Jewish,” he said in an emailed statement.

“Hillel is in regular contact with the OCAD administration, including President Ana Serrano, about additional steps that they should undertake to address antisemitism on its campus. We call on university leaders across Ontario to take immediate action to safeguard the wellbeing of their Jewish students.”

In an emailed response, the university replied that, “OCAD U takes the safety and security of our students seriously. Discrimination in all forms, including antisemitism, is completely against the values of OCAD University.

“We are committed to maintaining an environment that is free from hate, discrimination, and violence, and discouraging any celebrations of violence. Unlawful threats and harassment are not tolerated.”