A law professor and a former University of Minnesota regent are asking the U.S. Department of Education to investigate concerns about antisemitism at the university.

"Antisemitism is a pressing problem in [the College of Liberal Arts], and a focused and expeditious investigation by the Department could help alleviate an increasingly oppressive academic atmosphere for our students," wrote professor and former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter and former Regent Michael Hsu. "The Department nonetheless may determine that circumstances warrant extending the investigation to the entire University, and its five campuses in Minnesota."

The complaint raises concerns about the university's decision to allow some faculty members to post pro-Palestinian statements on an official university website, and it lists five incidents for possible investigation. It comes as colleges nationwide have been grappling with tensions over the war between Hamas and Israel, trying to walk a line balancing free speech concerns with a desire to ensure students have a safe learning environment.

In a statement Monday, university officials said they were aware of the complaint.

"The letter's broad characterizations of the University are inaccurate and are fundamentally contrary to our mission and values," the statement said. "We look forward to hearing from the Office of Civil Rights, and to responding appropriately."

The U.S. Department of Education has promised to "take aggressive action" to combat what it describes as an "alarming nationwide rise" in reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia since Oct. 7. On that day, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel that killed an estimated 1,200 people and resulted in hundreds being taken hostage. Israel responded by invading the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian death toll has now surpassed 17,000, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory.

The Department of Education posts a list of colleges under investigation for concerns about antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination, and as of Monday the University of Minnesota was not included. That list is often updated on Tuesdays. A spokesperson said the department "does not comment further on pending investigations."

The conflict has shaken campuses across the country as students and faculty members — sometimes on opposing sides — stage protests and college leaders feel pressure to respond appropriately or risk alienating wealthy donors. It led to turnover at the University of Pennsylvania, where President Liz Magill resigned following backlash to her congressional testimony about antisemitism.

The complaint by Painter and Hsu lists incidents at the U that the pair believe could warrant investigation, some of which predate the latest conflict in the Middle East. Among other instances, the complaint raises concerns about a Jewish faculty member who was "accosted" while filming what the pair described as a "pro-Hamas rally" and concerns that a department was "soliciting rabidly antisemitic external reviewers" in the tenure process. The complaint also referenced an older incident in which a Jewish faculty member had been investigated after distributing posters that depicted the Prophet Muhammad disapproving of a terror attack years ago.

The complaint didn't name the faculty members involved.

The pair also took issue with the U's decision to allow faculty members to post pro-Palestinian statements on university websites. In an email to interim President Jeff Ettinger and other university leaders, Painter cited as an example a statement written by faculty in the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies department.

In a more than 1,000-word statement issued in October, faculty members in the department wrote that they stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and "assert that Israel's response is not self-defense." They wrote that they reaffirm support for a boycott and sanctions and asked others to join their call for an end to the siege.

The statement was updated on Nov. 20 to specify that it "was written collectively by the tenured core faculty of the Department of Gender Women and Sexuality Studies. This statement does not reflect the position of the University of Minnesota."

In an interview Monday, Painter said he believes that faculty members should be free to express their opinions as individuals, but not on university websites, where they could have a chilling effect on students. He noted that the university receives public funding and said he felt the statement omitted some atrocities committed by Hamas.

"It's not academic freedom," he said. "At a certain point, you're abusing your position to intimidate your students and to make them feel unwelcome."

A faculty member who chairs the department declined to comment Monday.

The faculty members' initial statement said: "We stand against antisemitism" and went on to note that objecting to the war is not antisemitic.

Painter said he hadn't heard similar concerns about Islamophobia on campus but would be inclined to file a similar complaint if he did: "Islamophobia is every bit a risk to our country as antisemitism."

In a regents meeting Friday, before the complaint was filed, Ettinger said he had been holding listening sessions with students, faculty and alumni and had "taken the opportunity to reiterate that the university needs to remain a place where people can express their opinions."

He said U policies make it clear that people have the freedom to speak on matters of public concern but also have a responsibility to make it clear when they are not speaking on behalf of the entire institution.

"Seeing the images of human suffering is deeply saddening for all of us, and we are acutely aware of the toll it is taking on some members of our University of Minnesota campus communities," he said.

This story contains material from the Associated Press.