House committee to investigate Harvard, MIT and Penn after antisemitism hearing


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Dive Brief:

  • The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will investigate disciplinary procedures at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after their presidents drew lawmaker ire at a recent congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.
  • Claudine Gay of Harvard, Elizabeth Magill of Penn, and Sally Kornbluth of MIT had all declined during the hearing to definitively say that calling for the genocide of Jewish people violated campus rules. An exchange with one lawmaker on the topic went viral, inspiring condemnations from Jewish advocacy groups, donors and even the White House.
  • Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, said in a statement Thursday that the presidents’ responses were unacceptable and other institutions should expect investigations, “as their litany of similar failures has not gone unnoticed.”

Dive Insight:

Congress has held several hearings on the antisemitic acts surging in the U.S., part of the fallout of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Hamas, deemed a terrorist group by the U.S. government, bombarded Israel in early October, resulting in about 1,200 casualties. Israel has retaliated by launching airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

Political tensions have flared at colleges, which have tried to balance free speech rights with disciplining harassment and antisemitism.

Many Republicans, and some Democrats, have alleged colleges have allowed antisemitism to proliferate. They repeated this criticism during the hearing Tuesday, the first that featured college presidents discussing recent campus events.

Foxx told the presidents during the hearing that the committee wanted to hear their “plan for preventing this rot from perpetuating.”

The executives attempted to explain during the hearing that while they found certain speech abhorrent, they could not punish it unless it crossed into actual harassment.

“It is a context-dependent decision,” Magill said.

Republicans who control the committee found the presidents’ answers unacceptable.

“Committee members have deep concerns with their leadership and their failure to take steps to provide Jewish students the safe learning environment they are due under law,” Foxx said in her statement Thursday.

Foxx added lawmakers will make “substantial document requests” and will even use subpoenas if the universities aren’t “immediately forthcoming.”


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