In a pivotal Congressional hearing last week that examined rampant anti-Semitism in some of the nation’s Ivy League universities, the presidents of Harvard, MIT and University of Pennsylvania shocked the world when they refused to affirm that calls for genocide of Jews in their respective institutions violate their schools’ code of conduct.
It was a profound moment of reckoning not only for the leaders of these elite institutions but for a society that looks to them as beacons of leadership. The hearing tore aside the veil masking spiraling anti-Semitic bigotry within these universities and the complicity of its leaders in allowing it to fester.
At the House Committee on Education hearing, Republicans showed footage of fierce anti-Israel protests at their schools, many of which included virulent hate speech toward Jews and calls for genocide.
Yet the Ivy League presidents being questioned appeared to inhabit their own bubble, disconnected from the alarming footage. They seemed to expect their defense of obscene Jew-hatred as protected “free speech” would win approval, if not in the halls of Congress then with grass-roots Americans.
Instead, “support for the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and M.I.T. eroded quickly,” wrote the New York Times, “after they seemed to evade what seemed like a rather simple question: Would they discipline students calling for the genocide of Jews?”
Their responses “drew incredulous responses,” the Times article said, as a chorus of influential voices condemned the presidents’ failure to unequivocally denounce calls for the murder of Jews and to outlaw such conduct.
‘One Down, Two to Go’
As calls mounted for the resignation of the school presidents, including from alumni, members of Congress and billionaire donors who announced they were withdrawing their gifts, president Liz Magill of UPenn walked back her congressional testimony saying she hadn’t been “properly focusing.” The next day she announced that she was stepping down.
“One down, two to go,” commented Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, who has led demands for accountability on the part of the three university administrators for their lack of “moral clarity and leadership.”
“This is only the very beginning of addressing the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has destroyed the most ‘prestigious’ higher education institutions in America,” said Stefanik. “This forced resignation of the president of UPenn is the bare minimum of what is required. These universities can anticipate a comprehensive Congressional investigation of all facets of their institutions’ perpetration of antisemitism. This includes administrative, faculty, funding, and overall leadership and governance.”
“Harvard and MIT, do the right thing. The world is watching,” she added.
Following the hearing, Rep. Stefanik announced that the House Education and Workforce Committee is “launching an official congressional investigation with the full force of subpoena power” into the three universities, among others.”
In addition, Stefanik led 73 members of Congress, from both the Republican and Democratic parties, in drafting a scathing letter to the boards of the three universities under investigation.
“I am proud to lead a bipartisan letter with Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-FL, and 72 of our colleagues to the members of the Governing Boards of Harvard, MIT, and Penn demanding that their presidents be removed after this week’s Education and Workforce Committee hearing,” Stefanik wrote.
“Testimony provided by presidents of your institutions showed a complete absence of moral clarity, and illuminated the double standards and dehumanization of the Jewish communities that your university presidents enabled,” the letter to the governing boards said.
“The leadership of top universities plays a pivotal role in shaping the moral compass of our future leaders,” the letter went on. “It is critically important that such leadership reflects a clear commitment to combating antisemitism, along with all forms of hate speech and bigotry.”
“Given this moment of crisis,” the letter said, “we demand that your boards immediately remove each of these presidents from their positions and that you provide an actionable plan to ensure that Jewish and Israeli students, teachers and faculty are safe on your campuses.”
Talk But No Action
The hearing, “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism,” began as both Republican and Democratic members of the House grilled the three female presidents, demanding to know how each has addressed the spike in antisemitism since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
“Today, each of you will have a chance to answer, to atone for the many specific instances of vitriolic, hate-filled antisemitism on your respective campuses that have denied students the safe learning environment,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman for the House Education Committee, told them in her opening statement.
Far from acknowledging that anti-Semitism had surged out of control under their watch, each president staunchly defended her record, proudly pointing to various measures she had taken to increase campus security and open investigations into anti-Semitic episodes.
Noticeably absent from these self-congratulatory remarks was any mention of actual penalties or disciplinary procedures meted out to students or faculty proven to have engaged in egregious anti-Semitic harassment. When questioned about what disciplinary measures are being employed, the presidents refused to answer.
Representative Elise Stefanik, R.-NY, zoned in on this glaring disconnect by repeatedly asking the presidents if calling for the genocide of Jews violated the code of conduct at their schools, and would they discipline a student engaged in this conduct?
Moral Imperatives Vanish When It’s About Anti-Semitism
All three danced around the question, throwing out legalistic catchphrases to avoid a direct answer. When finally cornered, the presidents insisted that everything depends on “context.” In other words, calls for violence against Jews are not inherently wrong or against school policy.
The following segment of the dialogue captures this shocking stance that sparked an intense backlash.
Rep Stefanik: President Magill, at Penn, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s rules or code of conduct? Yes or no?”
UPenn President Liz Magill: If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment, yes.
Rep. Stefanik: I am asking whether specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?”
Magill: If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment, yes.”
Stefanik: “Conduct” meaning committing the act of genocide?
Magill: It is a context-dependent question, congresswoman.”
Stefanik responded with shock.
“That’s your testimony today? Calling for the genocide of Jews is dependent on the context? It’s not bullying or harassment? This is the easiest question to answer yes for,” Stefanik said. She then threw the question at Harvard president Claudine Gay.
Stefanik: And Dr. Gay, at Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or no?”
Gay: “It can be, depending on the context.”
Stefanik: Genocide that is targeted at Jewish students, Jewish individuals? I will ask you one more time. Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or no?”
Gay: “Again, it depends on the context.”
“It does not depend on the context,” Stefanik shot back. “The answer is yes, and this is why you should resign. These are unacceptable answers across the board.”
Intense Backlash Against College Presidents
Stefanik, the fourth-ranking House Republican, was not the only one outraged by the moral obtuseness on display in the presidents’ responses. Their refusal to condemn calls for the murder of Jews drew fire from alumni, university donors, elected officials and influential commentators from across the political spectrum.
On a deeper level, the presidents’ response threw light on a corrosive atmosphere prevalent in leading universities today where time-honored moral and ethical principles have been eviscerated by woke and left-wing ideology.
Those immersed in this sea of indoctrination appear out of sync with the rest of the world. This might explain the bizarre disconnect in the exchanges between the Ivy League presidents and the members of congress at the hearing.
“It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: Calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said. “Any statements that advocate for the systematic murder of Jews are dangerous and revolting — and we should all stand firmly against them, on the side of human dignity and the most basic values that unite us as Americans.”
“After this week’s pathetic and morally bankrupt testimony by university presidents when answering my questions, the Education and Workforce Committee is launching an official congressional investigation with the full force of subpoena power into Penn, MIT, Harvard, and others,” Rep. Elise Stefanik said in a statement.
“We will use our full congressional authority to hold these schools accountable for their failure on the global stage.”
Republican presidential candidate and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley posted the video of the interactions at the hearing online, saying such remarks by the college presidents “will end or we’ll pull their tax-exempt status.”
“Calling for genocide of Jews is no different than calling for genocide of any other ethnic, racial, or religious group. The equivocation from these college presidents is disgusting,” Haley said.
Private equity billionaire Marc Rowan wrote a message to UPenn trustees saying he heard from hundreds of alumni, parents and leaders who were shocked by the hearing. “The University is suffering tremendous reputational damage,” Rowan wrote in the message, obtained by CNN. “How much damage to our reputation are we willing to accept?”
‘The Three Behaved Like Hostile Witnesses’
Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman called for the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania to “resign in disgrace,” citing disgust with their testimony.
“Throughout the hearing, the three behaved like hostile witnesses,” Ackman wrote in an online post, “exhibiting a profound disdain for the Congress with their smiles and smirks, and their outright refusal to answer basic questions with a yes or no answer.”
Ackman, a Harvard graduate who has been a vocal critic of how universities have addressed antisemitism, posted a clip from the exchange at the hearing where the university leaders were asked about calls for the genocide of Jews.
“They must all resign in disgrace. If a CEO of one of our companies gave a similar answer, he or she would be toast within the hour,” Ackman said. “The answers they gave reflect the profound moral bankruptcy of Presidents Gay, Magill and Kornbluth.”
“Why has anti-Semitism exploded on campus and around the world? Because of leaders like Presidents Gay, Magill and Kornbluth who believe genocide depends on the context,” Ackman said.
The criticism of the university leaders was so strong that president Gay of Harvard and Magill of UPenn felt compelled to issue new statements attempting to “clarify” the testimony. These revamped assertions contradicted their earlier statements that threats of anti-Semitic violence did not automatically qualify as harassment.
In a brazen about face, Magill now termed calls for genocide “vile,” and vowed to hold perpetrators to account.
Gay made similar contrite retractions, saying she was “sad” that her words “had caused pain,” and affecting distress that critics were confusing her support for “the right to free expression with the idea that Harvard would condone calls for violence against Jewish students.”
Bomb Threats; Hillel and Chabad Houses Vandalized
Despite the illusions the Ivy League presidents tried to project of their administrations managing the anti-Semitic outbreaks on their campus, many Jewish students say they feel threatened daily, not just by fellow students but by faculty and staff as well, the Free Beacon reported.
“As a student, despite what my university says, I do not feel safe,” said University of Pennsylvania senior Eyal Yakoby. “Let me be clear: I do not feel safe.”
Yakoby described several incidents on campus since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks. They included “a bomb threat against Hillel; a swastika spray-painted on the Hillel building; the Chabad house vandalized; a professor posting an armed wing of Hamas’s logo on Facebook, a Jewish student accosted with hostility; and ‘Jews are Nazis’ etched adjacent to Penn’s Jewish fraternity house.”
He also referenced a Dec. 3 protest that saw participants vandalize school property with graffiti calling for an “intifada,” and chant in Arabic, “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab.”
Harvard Law School student Jonathan Frieden described the fear gripping many Jewish students. “I talk to my Jewish friends on campus every day,” he said. “They tell me how afraid they are to go to class. They share hate messages they are receiving from other students on social media, including comparing Jews to Nazis. And they ask each other for safety advice because of the lack of effective communication from the university.”
Frieden described an incident where pro-Palestinian protesters swarmed a law school building he was inside while they chanted slogans including “from the river to the sea” and “globalize the intifada.” He witnessed Jewish students take off their yarmulkes and one student hide underneath a desk, he said.
All four students also castigated their administrations, alleging that they failed to do anything meaningful to tackle the anti-Semitic climate on campus.
New Trend: Jewish High School Grads Abandon Ivy League Plans
An article in National Review, a conservative magazine, discusses a new trend among Jewish high school graduates in the wake of the anti-Semitism crisis on college campuses: a growing disenchantment with the Ivy League image.
Fueled by the specter of pervasive anti-Semitism and hostility in these schools, bright Jewish students are rethinking their Ivy League aspirations and turning to smaller, less prestigious colleges.
To take a few examples from one Ivy League school, since October 7, “Columbia has become a byword in American Jewish circles for rampant antisemitism,” the article noted. “In the past two months, an Israeli student was assaulted on campus, and people have screamed profanities at religious Jewish students.”
In another example, reports in an online paper noted that an Israeli student at Columbia, introducing himself on the first day of class, was targeted with an anti-Israel slur by a professor who asked him, “So you must know a lot about settler colonialism. How do you feel about that?”
Another academic reportedly observed to a Jewish student, “It’s such a shame that your people survived just in order to perpetuate genocide.”
Columbia’s apathy in the face of corrosive anti-Semitism has driven donors away, prompting the administration to do serious damage control to prove their concern for Jewish students’ safety, the National Review article noted. In early November, the school suspended Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a rabid pro-Palestinian group, for “threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”
Columbia graduate Anna Feldman told NR that even before October 7, she always felt she was walking around on “eggshells whenever the topic was Jewish people or Israel. I always felt like I couldn’t say what I had to say about Israel or the Middle East in general.”
She noted that the much publicized episodes of anti-Semitism at Columbia after Oct. 7 were nothing new to her. They were part of the university’s everyday landscape, driven by left-wing philosophies that target Israel—and Jews by association—as a source of evil.
Feldman said she refrained from writing essays touching on the Middle East out of fear of being branded a pro-Israel bigot or “pro-colonialism.” Conversations she’s had with Jewish students stuck in classes with professors justifying the Hamas massacres, are deeply unnerving.
“Thank G-d I’m no longer on campus,” Feldman reflected to the interviewer. “I don’t think I’d be able to sit in the same room with someone who wants me dead.”
American Colleges Unmasked
Columbia, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania are all under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights over complaints that their administrations have not adequately responded to rising antisemitism.
“The furor over antisemitism on campus is a rare and welcome example of accountability at American universities. But it won’t amount to much if the only result is the resignation of a couple of university presidents,” asserted a WSJ op-ed.
“The great benefit of last week’s performance by three elite-school presidents before Congress is that it tore the mask off the intellectual and political corruption of much of the American academy,” the article said.
“The world was appalled by the equivocation of the academic leaders when asked if advocating genocide against Jews violated their codes of conduct. But the episode merely revealed the value system that has become endemic at too many prestigious schools.”
‘Deafening Silence’ Evokes Silent Complicity in Nazi Era
Last week’s explosive congressional hearing occurred just after an equally electrifying press conference, where House Republicans hosted Jewish students from many of the universities that have seen an alarming rise in antisemitism, The Hill reported.
“In 2023 at NYU, I hear calls to ‘gas the Jews,’ and I am told that ‘Hitler was right,’” Bella Ingber, a junior at NYU, told those in attendance.
“Since Oct. 7,” Ingber said, “the anti-Semitism I’ve experienced on campus is reminiscent of the Jew-hatred I’ve heard about from my grandparents, Holocaust survivors who experienced first-hand the deafening silence of their neighbors in Poland and Germany when the Nazis first rose to power.”
“70 percent of MIT Jewish students polled, feel forced to hide their identities and perspectives,” MIT graduate student Talia Kahn told the lawmakers. “This is not just harassment. This is our lives on the line,” added Kahn, who is also president of the MIT Israel Alliance.
She said she felt “immersed in an extremely toxic anti-Semitic atmosphere,” at MIT. “I was forced to leave my study group for my doctoral exams halfway through the semester because my group members told me that the people at the Nova music festival deserved to die because they were partying on stolen land.”
In an interview with Free Beacon, Talia Kahn shared that the school’s interfaith chaplain publicly threatened Jewish students; that DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) staff claimed Israel has no right to exist; and that faculty told students that if they are scared, they should “just go back to Israel.”
Harvard’s President Embroiled in Plagiarism Scandal
In a strange coinciding of scandals, Harvard president Claudine Gay, under fire for fostering a climate of anti-Semitism at Harvard, now finds herself embroiled in accusations of plagiarism.
A report in the Washington Free Beacon claims that “Claudine Gay plagiarized numerous academics over the course of her career, at times airlifting entire paragraphs and claiming them as her own work, according to reviews by several scholars.”
The expose details that in four papers published between 1993 and 2017, including her doctoral dissertation, Gay improperly paraphrased or quoted nearly 20 authors without proper attribution.
“Writers are expected to cite the sources of their work, including when paraphrasing, and to use quotation marks when quoting directly from others,” the Free Beacon explains. “But in at least 10 instances, Gay lifted full sentences—even entire paragraphs—with just a word or two tweaked.”
The article notes that the four papers that include alleged plagiarized material comprise a significant portion of Gay’s academic output.
“If this were a stand-alone instance, it could… perhaps be excused as the blunder of someone working hastily,” Peter Wood, a former associate dean of Boston University, was quoted as saying. “But that excuse vanishes as the examples multiply.”
The allegations have added another layer of scrutiny to Gay’s leadership as the charges of academic impropriety merge with accusations by over 70 lawmakers that Harvard’s president lacks moral clarity and is guilty of failed leadership at her post.
This convergence of issues has intensified the spotlight on Gay’s actions, raising deeply troubling questions about her ethics and integrity.
Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University. Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing.
So many people have suffered tremendous damage and pain because of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack, and the University’s initial statement should have been an immediate, direct, and unequivocal condemnation. Calls for genocide are despicable and contrary to fundamental human values. President Gay has apologized for how she handled her congressional testimony and has committed to redoubling the University’s fight against antisemitism.
With regard to President Gay’s academic writings, the University became aware in late October of allegations regarding three articles. At President Gay’s request, the Fellows promptly initiated an independent review by distinguished political scientists and conducted a review of her published work. On December 9, the Fellows reviewed the results, which revealed a few instances of inadequate citation. While the analysis found no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct, President Gay is proactively requesting four corrections in two articles to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications.
In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay. At Harvard, we champion open discourse and academic freedom, and we are united in our strong belief that calls for violence against our students and disruptions of the classroom experience will not be tolerated. Harvard’s mission is advancing knowledge, research, and discovery that will help address deep societal issues and promote constructive discourse, and we are confident that President Gay will lead Harvard forward toward accomplishing this vital work.
The Fellows of Harvard College
Penny Pritzker, Senior Fellow
Timothy R. Barakett, Treasurer
Kenneth I. Chenault
Mariano-Florentino (Tino) Cuéllar
Paul J. Finnegan
Karen Gordon Mills
Diana L. Nelson
Tracy P. Palandjian
Shirley M. Tilghman
Theodore V. Wells, Jr.