Tuesday, December 5th 2023, 9:52 pm
The presidents of three of the nation’s most prestigious universities went before a sometimes hostile panel of lawmakers Tuesday, to respond to allegations that, in the wake of Hamas’s brutal assault on Israel, they are allowing rampant antisemitism to go unchecked.on their campuses.
College campuses are supposed to be spaces where free speech and the exchange of differing points of view are held sacred but, as was made clear during the hearing, “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism,” many Republicans believe liberal administrators have recently allowed this to go too far.
"What action has been taken against students who are harassing and calling for the genocide of Jews on the Harvard campus?” Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) asked Harvard University President Dr. Claudine Gay.
"I can assure you,” Dr. Gay started to reply, “we have robust--"
But Stefanik quickly interrupted: “What actions have been taken!?”
Harvard is not alone in coming under fire, as campuses across the country have become ground zero for the emotions unleashed by Hamas’s terror attack on Israel, and Israel’s punitive response. Islamophobia has spiked, but antisemitic incidents are up dramatically, including at the nation’s institutions of higher education.
The U.S. Department of Education has launched investigations into allegations of antisemitism at several schools, including Columbia University, the University of Tampa, and The University of Pennsylvania. "The antisemitism that we’ve seen on your campuses didn’t come out of nowhere,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairwoman of the House Education and Commerce Committee, said to the witnesses, Dr. Gay, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, and MIT President Dr. Sally Kornbluth.
In the opening round of questions, Rep. Foxx suggested it was the cultures at their respective institutions that somehow are fostering the antisemitism, that there are faculty and students that hate Israel. “How did your campuses get this way?” Foxx asked. “What is it about the way that you hire faculty and approve curriculum that is allowing your campuses to be infected by this intellectual and moral rot?"
In response to this and other similar questions during the hearing, the presidents said finding the right balance between protecting free speech and policing hate speech over the last two months has been challenging and they have likely made some mistakes, but they insisted they are certainly not encouraging antisemitism. “Any form of hate is very contrary to our values,” said UPenn’s Magill. “I would venture an answer, Chairwoman Foxx, is that antisemitism has a role in the broader society and that’s what we’re seeing happening in the society and on our campuses, and I’m committed to combating it in the immediate term and the long term.”
Democrats on the committee also expressed their concern with rising antisemitism, but noted that Republicans are intent on cutting funding for agencies charged with policing and preventing civil rights violations. Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), the committee’s ranking member, added that when a group of white supremacists marched on the University of Virginia campus in 2017, expressing hatred for Jews, the Republican leadership of this same committee declined to hold a hearing on it.
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