Last week’s fiery congressional hearing, in which the presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT refused to denounce calls for genocide of Jews at their schools and were accused of failing to protect Jewish students, sparked an intense backlash that continues to reverberate.
The hearing specifically focused on virulent anti-Israel protests and incidents of Jew-baiting on these Ivy League campuses since the Hamas massacres of Oct. 7. They shone a spotlight on the schools’ accountability for doing nothing to combat the surge of anti-Semitism.
The exchanges at the hearing went viral as the three female college presidents revealed a shameless double standard that jolted the nation. Each dodged and sidestepped the lawmakers’ questions about whether calls for genocide violate their schools’ bylaws, parroting the same mantra that “it depends on context.”
Priding themselves on their schools’ social justice laws that prohibit discriminatory behavior toward minorities, these leaders at the same time refused to define calls for the murder of Jews as a form of discrimination. They justified this contradiction by citing their concern for encroaching on “freedom of speech.”
Critics ridiculed this argument for enabling virulent anti-Semitism, pointing out that Harvard, MIT and Penn have all sharply restricted speech in other contexts, whenever speech clashes with the university’s liberal ideology.
Even speech that doesn’t begin to rise to the level of harassment but contradicts establishment doctrine is cancelled and penalized at these schools.
In the uproar and widespread condemnation following the hearing, businessman Russ Stevens threatened to withdraw a promised donation of $100 million to UPenn if the president was not removed. Four days later, President Liz Magill stepped down, as did as did the chairman of the university’s board of directors.
Harvard’s President Claudine Gay and MIT’s President Sally Kornbluth have remained in their jobs for now, despite calls for their resignations coming from donors, activists and influential alumni.
Bipartisan Resolution Condemns Presidents’ Testimonies
Several members of Congress introduced a resolution last week condemning Gay’s and Kornbluth’s testimonies, urging the presidents to step down but stopping short of calling for their removal.
Spearheaded by House GOP Chairman Elise Stefanik, R-NY, who took up the cudgel against campus anti-Semitism in congressional hearing, the resolution was co-sponsored by a fellow Republican as well as two Democrats, reports The Hill.
The resolution mentions the three Ivy League presidents’ names and “strongly condemns” them for their “failure to clearly state that calls for the genocide of Jews constitute harassment and violate their institutions’ codes of conduct.”
The legislation also condemned the rise of anti-Semitism on university campuses across the country, citing its alarming surge in the aftermath of Hamas’s massacres against Israel on Oct. 7. The resolution calls out college leaders for not speaking out in support of Jewish and pro-Israel students who were being intimidated and bullied on campus.
Last month, the House approved a similar resolution condemning support for Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations at institutions of higher education. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, who heads the House Education and the Workforce’s subcommittee on higher education.
“Hateful acts of anti-Semitism are spreading like wildfire across American college campuses,” Rep. Owens said on the House floor during debate on the November measure. The resolution denounced several demonstrations held in support of the Oct. 7 attack, including the “Day of Resistance” organized by the notorious SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) and “pro-Hamas statements” issued by their chapters.
Rep. Owens also said students protesting on campuses were chanting “Glory to our Martyrs,” which he called an “explicit anti-Semitic call for violent eradication of Jews and the State of Israel.”
“These hate-filled college students have no shame and no fear,” Owens said. “Imagine the accountability they would face if they were chanting murder the blacks or murder people with a [deviant] lifestyle.”
In another resolution co-sponsored by Max Miller of, R-Ohio and David Kustoff, R-Tennessee, the chamber voted 311-14-92 to reaffirm the House’s strong support for the Jewish community across the globe. This resolution was cosponsored by Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-NJ, and Jared Moskowitz, D-FL.
The measure calls on elected officials and world leaders to condemn anti-Semitism, and rejects all forms of terror, hate, discrimination and harassment against individuals in the Jewish community.
The resolution also “clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism,” with language that labels the denial of the Jewish people’s historical connection to Israel and their right to self-determination as anti-Semitic, as per the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Association) working definition of anti-Semitism.
In the same vein, verbally or physically harassing Jews or vandalizing Jewish institutions because one dislikes Israel is also a manifestation of anti-Semitism, cited by the Kustoff resolution. [See Sidebar]
Rep. Stefanik: A Question of Moral Clarity
The House passed the Stefanik-led resolution last week by a vote of 303-126, with 84 Democrats and nearly all Republicans in favor.
“This is not a partisan issue but a question of moral clarity, which is why our colleagues from across the aisle have come together,” Stefanik said in a statement. “We are only just beginning to address the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has infected America’s higher education system, and we will not stop until it is rooted out and those responsible for fostering its growth are held accountable.”
“These are Ivy League university presidents that were asked a softball question: ‘Does calling for the genocide of Jews count as harassment under their school’s policies?’” said Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-FL. “That’s not a trick question, and it’s infuriating that these leaders would try to equivocate with some nonsense about ‘it depends on the context.’
“Replace ‘Jews’ with any other persecuted minority group, and they would never have given that answer,” said Moskowitz. “They failed the test, and just like with their students, there are no makeups.”
UPenn president Liz Magill apparently saw the handwriting on the wall. Four days after the Congressional hearing and after billionaire Russ Stevens threatened to withdraw a promised donation of $100 million if the president was not removed, Magill announced she would step down.
Circling the Wagons at Harvard and MIT
Both Harvard and MIT, however, chose to declare their support for their respective presidents, praising the women’s leadership after issuing statements repairing the damage they wreaked at the Campus Anti-Semitism hearing.
“As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University,” the group said in a statement. It acknowledged that the university should have issued an “immediate, direct and unequivocal condemnation” of Hamas’ terror attack on Oct. 7.
“Calls for genocide are despicable and contrary to fundamental human values,” the statement said, in stark contrast to Gay’s testimony at the hearing.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square, has garnered media fame by becoming an outspoken critic of Ivy League presidents whom he accuses of failing to stamp out antisemitism on campuses, a NY Post article said.
His sharp critique escalated after Gay, Kornbluth and Magill delivered their disastrous testimonies at the congressional hearing, failing to condemn calls for genocide at their schools.
Harvard has suffered a staggering financial loss in the scandal, the hedge funder claimed, in addition to the blow to its reputation.
“President Gay’s failures have led to billions of dollars canceled, paused and withdrawn donations to the university,” he wrote in a letter to the school’s governing board of directors last Sunday, which he also posted online, the Post article said.
“I am personally aware of more than a billion dollars of terminated donations from a small group of Harvard’s most generous Jewish and non-Jewish alumni.”
Ackman went on to accuse Gay of “doing more damage to Harvard’s reputation than anyone in the university’s history.”
Fallout from the Congressional hearing has apparently spilled over to the legal community, hurting Harvard’s job recruiting efforts on behalf of its law students.
JNS reports on a prominent Chicago law firm that decided to withdraw plans to offer jobs at Harvard’s fairs scheduled for next month and August 2024.
In a letter to Harvard recruitment director Jesse Ohrenberger, Edelson PCfounding partner Jay Edelson noted that Dr. Gay’s testimony before Congress “cannot be seen as merely a slip of the tongue.”
“Her extensive experience and preparation with a crisis management team before her Congressional testimony,” indicates a deliberate choice of words, he said, quoted in the JNS article.
“It must be unequivocally clear that calls for the genocide of any group—be it on the basis of religion, race, gender or disability—are indefensible and contrary to the values we uphold,” Edelson spelled out. “Dr. Gay was in a position to help lead the country. She did the very opposite.”
“We trust that Harvard Law School understands the importance of upholding the highest ethical standards. To the extent that your school is able to embrace the principles of justice, inclusivity and safety that we’ve long believed we shared with Harvard, we would be excited to restart the relationship,” Edelson wrote in conclusion.
Plagiarism Scandal Refuses to Die
The allegations of plagiarism swirling around Dr. Gay, coinciding with the storm over her self-incriminating testimony in Congress, have intensified the controversy surrounding her continued tenure as Harvard’s president.
Findings by plagiarism experts that she had plagiarized in at least four of her academic works, including her doctoral dissertation, have prompted increasing calls for her dismissal.
Gay has released statements insisting on her integrity and claiming she was remiss only in accidentally neglecting to include citations in three or four places, which she pledged to correct.
The scandal surfaced when Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo and journalist Chris Brunet uncovered examples of plagiarism in Gay’s doctoral dissertation. The Washington Free Beacon then exposed Gay as a serial plagiarist, “at times airlifting entire paragraphs and claiming them as her own work.”
The Free Beacon report stated that, “in four papers published between 1993 and 2017, including her dissertation, Gay paraphrased or quoted nearly 20 authors without proper attribution.”
The paper “worked with nearly a dozen scholars to analyze 29 potential cases of plagiarism,” the report explained. “Most of them said that Gay had violated a core principle of academic integrity as well as Harvard’s own anti-plagiarism policies, which state that ‘it’s not enough to change a few words here and there.’”
Harvard’s celebrated newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, predicted the scandal would add fuel to the controversy over Gay’s suitability as university president.
“The plagiarism charges — some of which had surfaced on anonymous academia forums over the past year but were only recently widely reported — are sure to cast even more doubt on the embattled president’s fitness for the job, even if she is not in imminent danger of losing it,” the paper said.
The Boston Globe, after initially maintaining silence, ran an article questioning “why, if Gay didn’t violate any standards of research, would she need to correct anything?”
“Harvard’s own guidelines on plagiarism published on its website don’t seem to fit with the governing board’s statement either,” the Boston Globe noted. Under a section entitled, “What Constitutes Plagiarism?” the university says “it is considered plagiarism to draw any idea or any language from someone else without adequately crediting that source in your paper.”
The university goes on to call this “unacceptable” conduct, an act of “stealing” someone else’s work, whether “intentionally or by accident.”
Yet Harvard’s governing board has chosen to support Gay and “won’t let credible accusations of plagiarism, or soaring campus anti-Semitism get in the way,” reports the NY Post.
Harvard Blows Off Allegations
The Harvard Corporation said officials became aware of claims of plagiarism in late October and initiated an independent review, according to the Post. On Dec. 9, (a few days after the Free Beacon published its allegations), the board allegedly reviewed the results, which they said 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,” the Harvard Board said.
But one of the authors whose work Gay allegedly plagiarized, former Princeton professor Carol Swain, took a harsher view.
“What’s bothering me is not just that there are passages she didn’t put in quotation marks. When I look at her work, I feel like her whole research agenda, her whole career, was based on my work,” Swain told interviewer Christopher Rufo, the above-mentioned journalist who broke the plagiarism scandal.
Swain made the point that the articles Gay published had to pass through reviewers and people on her committee who should have noticed “she was doing research that was building on my work. I would have thought they’d acknowledge she was building on my ideas.”
The penalty for someone who crossed those lines would normally be more severe that a pat on the wrist, the scholar noted. “Obviously, the Harvard Corporation did not have the courage to fire its first black president, someone who should never have been elevated in the first place,” she said.
Swain added that she had “no doubt that progressives have always elevated people who fit the bill of what they’re looking, and they needed someone like [Claudine Gay]….White progressives have always rewarded the blacks who supported their ideas.”
“What do you think would happen to a white person in these circumstances [accused of plagiarism]?” the interviewer queried.
“A white male would already be gone,” the former Princeton professor said.
‘She Had No Trouble Riding on Others’ Coattails’
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Carol Swain, the author whose work was allegedly plagiarized by President Claudine Gay, harshly criticized Harvard, saying the plagiarism and the school’s defense of it has harmed her, Swain, and “academia as a whole.”
“Ms. Gay’s damage to me is aggravated because her scholarship builds on terrain where I plowed the ground,” Swain wrote. “When scholars aren’t cited adequately or their work is ignored, it harms them because academic stature is determined by how often other researchers cite your work,” she added. “Ms. Gay had no problem riding on the coattails of people whose work she used without proper attribution.”
Gay is accused of lifting passages from other scholars’ works at least three times in her doctoral thesis. Harvard has so far stood by its president amid the scandal, saying her failure to cite the works she pulled from did not violate the university’s standards.
Swain, who previously taught at Vanderbilt University and Princeton University, said that Gay’s work is mediocre, and provides no “ground-breaking originality” which was once a sina qua non for tenure and career advancement.
“In a world where the diversity is king, Ms. Gay was able to parlay mediocre research into tenure and advancement at what was once considered a world-class university,” she wrote. “Harvard can’t condemn Ms. Gay because she is the product of an elite system that holds minorities of high pedigree to a lower standard.”
“This harms academia as a whole, and it demeans Americans of all races who had to work for everything they earned,” she added.
Swain called out Harvard for attempting to “redefine plagiarism so that it can retain its first ever black president – who was clearly promoted based on DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion standards)” as opposed to genuine merit.
Rep. Kustoff Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism
The Kustoff Resolution, passed on December 5, begins with a list of recent vicious attacks on Jews in just the month of November, in various corners of the globe including the Middle East, Australia, London, Italy, NYC, LA, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Arizona and other places.
“I rise today in support of this resolution that strongly condemns the drastic rise of anti-Semitism both here in our nation and abroad,” said Rep. David Kustoff as he introduced the resolution.
“Last week, I had the privilege and honor of speaking with Amir Ohana, Speaker of the Knesset. We talked about how since Hamas’ horrific and brutal terrorist attack against Israelis on October 7, 2023, life has changed not only in Israel but around the world.
“We also talked about how we have seen an absolute explosion, of anti-Semitic incidents, attacks, and harassment, in Israel, here in our own nation, and across the world.
“According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), since Hamas’ massacre on October 7th, anti-Semitic incidents around this nation have increased nearly 400% compared to the same period last year. We have even seen members of this very body repeat blatantly anti-Semitic rhetoric and spread lies about Israel and her right to exist.
“Let me be absolutely clear: such hate has no place in the halls of Congress nor our national discourse. It is our fundamental responsibility as leaders and Members of Congress to condemn and fight these horrific acts of hate and discrimination against the Jewish community.
“That is why I am proud to work with my colleague Congressman Max Miller to introduce this critical resolution to condemn and denounce all instances of domestic and global anti-Semitism.
“A few months ago, I had the opportunity to take a group of people through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. A little over a mile away from where we are standing, the museum serves not only as a reminder of the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust, but also as a stark reminder that we can never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, and that we as leaders have an obligation and a duty to make sure it never happens again.
“For these reasons, I urge all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this simple yet critical resolution. It is essential we send a clear and firm message to the world that the United States House of Representatives stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Jewish community here in the United States and abroad.
“As Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah, we should remember the words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, “Hanukkah tells us not to curse the darkness, but instead to bring light to the world. It tells us to fight back and not to be afraid.”
We should truly heed those words. Thank you to my colleagues for supporting this resolution.