Congress Questions College Presidents on Campus Jew-Hatred

Campus Presidents Refuse To Answer if Calling For Genocide of Jews Violates University Rules.
December 6, 2023
Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, Liz Magill, President of University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Pamela Nadell, Professor of History and Jewish Studies at American University, and Dr. Sally Kornbluth, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Appearing before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the presidents of three major universities: Harvard’s Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania’s Liz Magill and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were asked if calling for the genocide of Jews was against the colleges’ conduct of conduct.

None of them answered the question, instead saying it depended on the context and the result of any specific investigation.

Magill said if the speech turns into conduct it could be harassment.

“Conduct meaning committing the act of genocide?” Elise Stefanik of New York, the fourth ranking House Republican,asked. “The speech is not harassment? This is unacceptable, Ms. Magill. I’m going give you one more opportunity to for the world to see your answer. Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s code of conduct when it comes to bullying and harassment. Yes or no?”

“It can be harassment,” Magill said.

“The answer is yes,’” Stefanik said.

Gay said it can be if it is targeted at an individual and depends on the context.

“It does not depend on the context,” Stefanik said. “The answer is yes and this is why you should resign. These are unacceptable answers across the board.”

The college leaders cited the importance of freedom of speech and the need to allow views that they don’t agree with. But speech that creates a hostile environment where one does not safe to get an education. The presidents said they can condemn speakers of events but don’t censor them. A major issue are the chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and calls for “Intifada, revolution” as being the only solution.

“The best way to fight negative speech is more speech,” Kornbluth, who is Jewish, told the committee.

While reports of antisemitism since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 has been widespread, these three colleges have gotten much of the media attention. At Penn, there were threats against the campus Hillel, antisemitic messages were projected onto campus buildings and an event called Palestine Writes Literature Festival included a remote appearance by former Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters, who has a long track record of using antisemitic tropes; earlier this year he appeared at a concert in Berlin wearing a Nazi-type uniform. At Harvard, when Gay condemned the phrase “from the river to the sea” 100 professors criticized her condemnation. Thirty-one Harvard groups signed a document calling Israel as “entirely responsible” for the Hamas attack of Oct. 7. Harvard and MIT are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for allegations of civil rights violations linked to antisemitism.

At MIT, pro-Palestinian protestors did not leave an area reserved for pedestrians, despite threats of suspension. In a statement, Kornbluth said that the students would not be suspended from classes because of collateral consequences such as “visa issues.

When asked why they were not suspended, Kornbluth told the committee “we strive for outcomes that are proportional to the transgression.”

Democratic Pennsylvania Congresswoman Susan Wild asked Magill if students who called for calling for intifada, global revolution was an example of hate speech or speech that would incite violence.

Magill said the video of the chants was “hard to watch” and “disturbing” and said it was “hateful speech” that should be condemned but said whether it rose to incitement to violence was “a much more difficult question.”

Jim Banks (R-Ind.) asked why the Palestine Writes Literature Festival included antisemite Roger Waters, Magill told him there was no place for antisemitism and she had called out some of the invited speakers, but it was a free speech issue.

Banks said Penn regulates speech it doesn’t like, and brought up lecturer Ahmad Almallah, who led students in chanting “intifada was the one solution.”

“Why does that professor still have a job at your university?” Banks asked, who added that her university is a hotbed of antisemitism.

“You’re largely responsible for it,” Banks said, referring to Almallah.

Lisa McClain (R-Mi.) asked Gay if any action was taken against students who mobbed a Jewish student and why pro-Palestinian protestors occupied University Hall for 24 hours with professors promising them no disciplinary actions would be taken. Gay did not answer.

“I love the lip service,” McClain said sarcastically.

She later scolded the administrators — “we deserve answers … not rhetoric.”

None of the three presidents could name a single instance in which any students was disciplined for antisemitic behavior. In 2022, when City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez chose not to appear before a city council hearing on antisemitism at CUNY, his representatives who did appear could also not name a single example of a student being disciplined for antisemitism.

Asked why she decided not to receive a briefing by an Israeli official regarding the facts of Oct. 7, Magill said she gets many invitations and had to mind her calendar.

Julia Letlow (R- La.) said a female Jewish student at MIT told her she had to leave a study group because a student said the women at the Nova festival “deserved to die because they were partying on stolen land.”

Letlow said the lack of action by college presidents was disheartening.

“I am embarrassed,” she said.

Asked what was being done at MIT, Kornbluth said there “have been lunches” and said a police presence helped avoid physical confrontations.

California’s Kevin Kiley (R-Lake Tahoe) asked Gay if she could look Jewish parents who were considering sending a child to Harvard they would be safe from antisemitic attacks and she could not answer. Kiley told Gay that her “parsed statements” made it appear she holds the position that “forces of antisemitism are a constituency that needs to be catered to.”

“Should the federal government keep shoveling money and privilege to institutions like yours that fail so profoundly in their mission?” –Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.)

Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.) asked Gay: “should the federal government keep shoveling money and privilege to institutions like yours that fail so profoundly in their mission? … How did you arrive here if education is your mission and antisemitism is your result?”

He asked the same of Magill and said he was embarrassed to be a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Gay said Harvard denied a request to put up the Israeli flag because it is against school policy, but said her immediate predecessor, Lawrence Bacow, allowed a Ukrainian flag to be flown after Russia invaded the country.

Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the committee’s chairwoman, told the university presidents they had work to do and must protect students and speak out against hate that has become fashionable

“That’s your job as a campus president,” Foxx said. “That means being willing to risk your job to speak truth clearly, consistently and unapologetically, even when the Jew haters turn their hate to you. We’ll now be watching, and I genuinely hope for the sake of our nation, you will rise to meet the challenge.”

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