Presidents of Harvard, MIT, UPenn Asked to Testify Before Congress Over Campus Anti-Semitism

‘College and university presidents have a responsibility to foster and uphold a safe learning environment for their students and staff.’
Presidents of Harvard, MIT, UPenn Asked to Testify Before Congress Over Campus Anti-Semitism
The Harvard University campus on April 22, 2020. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
11/29/2023
Updated:
11/30/2023
0:00

Presidents of three elite universities have been asked to testify before Congress over growing anti-Semitism on campus.

Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce announced on Nov. 28 that her committee will hold a hearing on “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Anti-Semitism” on Dec. 5.

Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, Liz Magill, president of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), and Sally Kornbluth, president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will be major witnesses at the hearing.

“Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen countless examples of anti-Semitic demonstrations on college campuses,” said Ms. Foxx. “Meanwhile, college administrators have largely stood by, allowing horrific rhetoric to fester and grow.”

Since the war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas broke out, anti-Semitism in the United States has been on the rise, spiking on campuses. Donors, alumni, and lawmakers have criticized universities for not sufficiently addressing anti-Israel activities. Some billionaire donors have cut ties with colleges.

The U.S. Department of Education opened civil rights investigations into multiple schools and universities in mid-November following allegations of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Among the higher education institutions under investigation are four Ivy League schools: Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania.

“College and university presidents have a responsibility to foster and uphold a safe learning environment for their students and staff. Now is not a time for indecision or milquetoast statements,” Ms. Foxx said.

“By holding this hearing, we are shining the spotlight on these campus leaders and demanding they take the appropriate action to stand strong against anti-Semitism.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), from Oct. 7 to Nov. 7, one month after the war began, anti-Semitism on campus has increased by more than 10 times—from 12 cases in 2022 to 124 over the same period.
Earlier this month, Cornell University had to cancel classes on Nov. 3 due to “extraordinary stress” from a series of divisive events on campus. The incidents followed the arrest of a third-year Cornell student for allegedly threatening to kill Jewish people.
Late last month, Columbia University also canceled a major fundraiser after some of its staff and students engaged in anti-Israel, pro-Hamas activities on campus.

Condemning Anti-Semitism

One month after the war, on Nov. 4, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman wrote a letter to Harvard President Claudine Gay, criticizing the university for not acting enough to curb anti-Semitic incidents. He said its diversity policies have contributed to the problem.

“For the past four weeks since the horrors of Oct. 7, I have been in dialogue with members of the corporation board, other alumni, as well as students and faculty, sharing and comparing our concerns about the growing number of anti-Semitic incidents on campus, as we wait for you and the University to act,” Mr. Ackman wrote.

“Four weeks after the barbaric terrorist acts of Oct. 7, I have lost confidence that you and the University will do what is required.”

Pro-Palestinian supporters protest in New York on Nov. 17, 2023. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Pro-Palestinian supporters protest in New York on Nov. 17, 2023. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
During a House hearing on “Confronting the Scourge of Anti-Semitism on Campus” on Nov. 14, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a Harvard alumnus, condemned Harvard and other universities across the United States for “enabling” anti-Semitism on campuses. She and other GOP Harvard graduates called on President Gay to resign.
On Nov. 2, the House passed a resolution condemning “the support of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations at institutions of higher education, which may lead to the creation of a hostile environment for Jewish students, faculty, and staff.”
In addition, an international coalition of more than 100 educational institutions issued a statement condemning Hamas and supporting Israel, calling the fight against the terror group a “fight against evil.”

Donors Cut Ties

Harvard University has faced intense criticism since more than 30 of its student groups signed a letter blaming Israel for being “entirely responsible” for the Oct. 7 attack, when Hamas terrorists launched a surprise assault into Israel, killing over 1,200 civilians, including Americans.
Some of Harvard’s funders have announced cutting off ties with the university. A nonprofit established by billionaire Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail severed its relationship with Harvard following anti-Israel activities on campus.

Earlier, Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and his wife Batia quit the Harvard executive board as a protest against the university’s poor response to Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

In addition, more than 1,600 Jewish alumni from Harvard signed a letter criticizing the university for not taking steps to tackle rising anti-Semitism on campus, with some pledging to donate only $1 until the issue is resolved.
In an Oct. 15 open letter to UPenn President Liz Magill and Chairman Scott Bok, venture capitalist David Magerman announced that he refuses “to donate another dollar to Penn” and that he is “deeply ashamed” about his association with the university.
Other UPenn donors, such as private equity billionaire Marc Rowan, hedge fund billionaire Cliff Asness, and former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, have also vowed to stop donating to the university.

The University of Pennsylvania told The Epoch Times in a statement, “President Magill understands the critical importance of fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of hate on Penn’s campus and looks forward to sharing the actions Penn is taking at next week’s hearing.”

MIT told The Epoch Times that its president “welcomes the opportunity to engage with the Committee Members.”

According to an update from MIT’s campus information regarding recent incidents published on Nov. 14, MIT President Sally Kornbluth said, “We need a community where we can all express our views. But we also need MIT to be a place where we all feel safe and free to live, work, and study.”

Harvard University has not replied to requests for comment by the press time.

Naveen Athrappully and Jackson Richman contributed to this report.