Harvard, Penn, MIT Heads Face Congress Over Campus Antisemitism
The battle raging on US college campuses over free speech and antisemitism is coming to Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday will grill the leaders of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about their responses to protests that erupted after the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.
Harvard’s Claudine Gay, Penn’s Liz Magill and MIT’s Sally Kornbluth will face lawmakers starting at 10:15 a.m. local time. Alumni and donors, citing incidents of antisemitism, said the schools aren’t doing enough to create a safe learning environment for Jewish students.
“By holding this hearing, we are shining the spotlight on these campus leaders and demanding they take the appropriate action to stand strong against antisemitism,” said Committee chair Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina.
A study released last week by the Anti-Defamation League and Hillel International found that 73 percent of Jewish college students and 44 percent of non-Jewish students have experienced or witnessed antisemitism since the start of the school year.
A 2021 survey found that about one-third of Jewish students experienced antisemitism directed at them, and 31 percent said they witnessed antisemitic activity on campus that wasn’t directed at them.
Anti-Defamation League’s preliminary data recorded 260 antisemitic incidents on college campuses between October 7 and November 28, compared with 20 incidents over the same time last year.
The concerns about how administrators have mishandled protests include recent events, such as one last week at Harvard and over the weekend at Penn, according to a committee spokesperson.
Harvard’s Hillel described a November 29 demonstration that disrupted classes with protesters using bullhorns to “blast abhorrent antisemitic calls to ‘globalise the intifada,’ and demands for the elimination of the Jewish state ‘from the river to the sea,”’ a phrase that Gay condemned in a letter earlier this month. Hamas is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union.
Larry Summers, Harvard’s former president, said he is also concerned about the Ivy League university’s leadership.
“Harvard Corporation and Administration, despite much public and private advice, are failing in their core obligation to create a safe environment conducive to learning and free expression for all students,” said Summers, who is a paid contributor to Bloomberg TV.
“When multiple classes are disrupted by students with megaphones and there is no strong and visible condemnation and discipline, the administration is not doing its job," said Summers.
Penn has been under scrutiny since before October 7 for hosting the Palestine Writes Literature Festival in September. Alumnus Marc Rowan, Apollo Global Management Inc.’s chief executive officer, has called on donors to withhold support until Magill and Scott Bok, chair of the board of trustees, resign.
The three schools have all appointed antisemitism task forces.
The US Education Department is investing in possible discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics at universities including Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, Penn and Cooper Union.