The presidents of the top three Ivy League universities in the United States all refused to explicitly condemn the calls for genocide of Jews on their campuses Tuesday evening during a high-profile hearing of the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Congress member Dr. Virginia Foxx (R-NC).
Watch the entire hearing, in all its surrealistic splendor, in the below CBS News stream.
The hearing was held to address the schools’ response – or lack thereof – to rabidly antisemitic incidents on their campuses since Oct. 7.
Harvard, UPenn, MIT presidents would not give a straight answer to @RepStefanik's question on whether calling for the genocide of Jews constitutes bullying and harassment against Jewish students. pic.twitter.com/wPJaVGw2eK
— House Committee on Education & the Workforce (@EdWorkforceCmte) December 5, 2023
All three presidents condemned the October 7 slaughter of Israelis by Hamas and affirmed Israel’s right to exist – but each one refused to state categorically that calling for the genocide of Jews on campus violates their schools’ codes of conduct.
In their testimonies, Harvard University President Claudine Gay, the University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth prevaricated when asked directly by New York GOP Congress member Elise Stefanik whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” violates their universities’ codes of conduct or rules regarding bullying and harassment – yes or no.”
Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate [your university’s] code of conduct or rules regarding bullying or harassment?
— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) December 5, 2023
Magill (smiling the entire time): “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment, yes.” Pressed on specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, she replied: “If it is directed, severe and pervasive, it is harassment.” Pressed again, “so the answer is yes?” Magill again ducked the issue: “It is a context-dependent decision, Congresswoman.” Pressed once more, the UPenn president replied: “If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment, yes.”
Gay: “It can be, depending on the context.” Pressed to define “context,” she answered, “Targeted as an individual, targeted at an individual.” Pressed again on genocide of Jews, she replied: “Antisemitic rhetoric, when it crosses into conduct, it amounts to bullying, harassment, intimidation, that is actionable conduct and we do take action.” But pressed once more on the simple question of genocide, the Harvard president repeated: “Again, it depends on the context.”
Kornbluth: “I have not heard calling for the genocide of Jews on our campus.” When pressed on the chants for “intifada”, she replied: “I’ve heard chants which CAN be antisemitic depending on the context, when calling for the elimination of the Jewish people.” As to violation of the school’s code of conduct, she replied, “That would be investigated as harassment, if pervasive and severe.”
Here are a few other salient quotes.
Magill: “The chanting, I think, calling for intifada, global revolution, [is] very disturbing. I believe at minimum that is hateful speech that has been and should be condemned. Whether it rises to the level of incitement to violence under the policies that Penn and the city of Philadelphia follow, which are guided by the United States Constitution, I think is a much more difficult question. Incitement to violence is a very narrow category.”
Gay: (on students chanting ‘intifada’ on Harvard’s campus) “That type of hateful, reckless, offensive speech is personally abhorrent to me . . . but only “when speech crosses into conduct that violates our policies, including policies against bullying, harassment or intimidation, we take action, and we have robust disciplinary processes that allow us to hold individuals accountable.”
Confrontations on Course Offerings, Funding, ‘Causative Factors’
The three presidents were also confronted on the factors that led to the current situation on their campuses.
“The Jewish people make up 2.4 percent of America’s population and are only two percent of the global population. For the past 5,000 years they have been enslaved, lynched, and systematically murdered. During that same time, they have relentlessly improved the course of humanity, selflessly contributing to societies which eventually betrayed them,” noted US Representative Lor Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR).
“And yet, President Gay, your university, Harvard, teaches only two courses on the history and culture of the Jewish people at the undergrad level and one of those classes is focused on portraying all Jews who support Israel’s existence as colonialists and racist – compared to the roughly 125 classes Harvard offers on Latino black indigenous and AAPI history. The discrepancy feels odd but you’re not alone.
“President Magill, the University of Pennsylvania offers three classes on Jewish history to undergrads.
“President Kornbluth, MIT only offers two classes on Jewish history to your undergrad students.
“This gives the impression that your deans and professors view Jews as an exception, that their voice as a minority group isn’t worth amplifying. This near eraser of Jewish history from offered courses is chilling to me. “
US Representative James Comer, R-KY) noted bluntly, “Many of our country’s top universities and colleges are for sale. That’s a fact. And our biggest foreign adversaries know it . . . “Now we’re hearing about billions of dollars flooding into our universities and colleges from countries supporting terrorists that hate what our country stands for.”
Comer noted that US Department of Education data show that Qatar, a key backer and ally of Hamas, “is one of the largest investors in US universities, has given more than $5 billion to US institutions of higher education since 2001.”
In summary, House Committee Chair Dr. Fox told the three presidents: “It is fashionable among too many members of your campus communities to hate Jews. We’ll now be watching, and I genuinely hope for the sake of our nation that you will rise to meet the challenge.”