House Hearing Exposes College Antisemitism
Colleges have been facing accusations of antisemitism ever since Hamas’ initial attack, and the recent House hearing only made things worse. What do you think of these presidents’ statements?
From The Hill. College leaders seeking to fend off accusations of failing to protect their students from rising antisemitism have instead shot themselves in the foot.
For weeks the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were drowning in criticism of not taking the problem seriously enough after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and a House hearing this week put them further into treacherous water.
The opportunity for the presidents to make the public feel confident in their steps has turned into calls for their resignation after all three tried to sidestep a question on if a call for the genocide of Jewish people would be considered harassment. …
Harvard President Claudine Gay said such a genocidal call could violate the school’s policies “depending on the context.” Sally Kornbluth, the head of MIT, said the calls would need to be “pervasive” and would warrant an investigation.
Penn President Liz Magill got into a longer back-and-forth … on the issue, with it ultimately coming to a head when Magill testified: “If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment.” …
The pushback was swift and strong, with the White House calling it “unbelievable that this needs to be said: Calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country.”
On Thursday, Education Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) announced “a formal investigation into the learning environments at Harvard, UPenn, and MIT and their policies and disciplinary procedures.” …
Harvard and Penn have released statements in the aftermath of the hearing, neither giving direct apologies for their responses.
“Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account,” Gay said.
Magill said she was more focused on the legal side of the issue then what her community needed in the moment.
“In that moment, I was focused on our university’s longstanding policies aligned with the U.S. Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable,” Magill said in her statement. …
All three universities were called to testify due to increased antisemitism on their campuses since Oct. 7. Harvard had a student-led group blame the October terrorist attack solely on Israel, MIT Jewish students said they were blocked from going to classes by protesters and Penn was already struggling after hosting a festival that included antisemitic speakers. …
While all three schools say they have commitments to free speech, each is a private school and not bound by the same First Amendment restrictions as other public institutions.
“They could censor and restrict whatever speech they want to. It’s really entirely their choice. If they want to have a notion of having free speech on campus, that’s generally a good thing, but this is their free choice to allow hateful speech on their campuses.” said Nathan Diament, director of Public Policy for the Orthodox Union.
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