Universities Face Continued Fallout From Anti-Semitism Hearing


“Should the federal government keep shoveling money and privilege to institutions that fail so profoundly in their mission?” U.S. Rep. Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.)

The resignation of the University of Pennsylvania president in response to public outcry for her seeming refusal to condemn the genocide of Jews is just the first domino to fall as part of the growing reckoning over anti-Semitism at U.S. elite schools.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has opened a full investigation into anti-Semitism at universities. In announcing the investigation, Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said other universities should also expect investigations. A month prior to the congressional testimony, the U.S. secretary of education hinted that schools that fail to protect Jewish students may lose federal funding.

The Dec. 5 hearing featured the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The presidents were asked by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” is against each institution’s code of conduct when it comes to harassment or bullying. Each president essentially answered, “It depends.”

That exchange became viral, fueling a backlash accentuated by the recent slaughter of about 1,200 Israelis at the hands of Hamas terrorists.

“We want to corroborate their testimony,” Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.) told The Epoch Times. “I asked this question: ‘OK, presidents, you said you’re taking disciplinary action. Now is the time to tell America, how many people you’ve expelled, how many people you disciplined. What groups have you kicked off campus?

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“Who has got something to tell me? Crickets. Nobody said anything. We’re going to ask for the receipts to corroborate their testimony.”

The committee will be looking at the university curricula and funding, noting that Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are the biggest sources of foreign donations to universities, Mr. Bean said.

“We’ve got colleges that are becoming hate factories. They are being taught this,” he said.

In recent months, pro-Palestinian campus protesters chanting for intifada and the complete annihilation of Israel have left Jewish students feeling unsafe.

Rabbi David Wolpe, visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity School, quit Harvard’s recently formed anti-Semitism advisory group, which was formed in response to the backlash from the congressional hearing.

In his resignation statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, he called the comments of Harvard President Claudine Gay “painfully inadequate testimony” that reinforced the idea that he couldn’t make the sort of difference that he had hoped.

“Universities matter. They are the crucible where young minds are formed and sometimes deformed. Here is where we should model civil disagreement, protest that matters as opposed to intimidates or harasses,” Mr. Wolpe told The Epoch Times in an email. “We need not only to teach the dignity of all individuals and groups, but that oppressor/oppression is not the only lens through which to see the world.”

“Most of the students here wish only to get an education and a job, not prosecute ideological agendas,” he wrote.

Public Pressure

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill announced on Dec. 9 that she would leave her position once a new interim president is named. She will be just steps away from the president’s desk, keeping her tenured faculty position at Penn Carey Law School. On the same day, the school’s Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok also resigned. Vice Chair Julie Platt was named the new interim chair of the Board of Trustees. Ms. Platt chairs the board of the Jewish Federations of North America and will serve only until a successor is appointed.

An MIT spokesperson confirmed to The Epoch Times in an email that the university stands by its Dec. 7 statement of support for President Sally Kornbluth.

The spokesperson’s email reads: “The MIT Corporation chose Sally to be our president for her outstanding academic leadership, her judgment, her integrity, her moral compass, and her ability to unite our community around MIT’s core values. She has done excellent work in leading our community, including in addressing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, which we reject utterly at MIT. She has our full and unreserved support.”

While internal discussions about Ms. Gay’s future were happening this week at Harvard, more than 700 faculty signed a letter urging the university to protect her position.

The letter reads: “We … urge you in the strongest possible terms to defend the independence of the university and to resist political pressures that are at odds with Harvard’s commitment to academic freedom, including calls for the removal of President Claudine Gay. The critical work of defending a culture of free inquiry in our diverse community cannot proceed if we let its shape be dictated by outside forces.”

On Dec. 12, the Harvard Corporation released a statement reaffirming its support of Ms. Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University.

“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,” the statement reads. “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 anti-Semitism.”

Each president issued an apology after the public reacted negatively to their statements.

The Harvard statement went on to address accusations that Ms. Gay plagiarized portions of her 1997 doctorate thesis.

“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,” the statement reads.

“On Dec. 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.”

 Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.) questions university presidents in a congressional hearing on Dec. 5, 2023. (Courtesy of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce)
Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.) questions university presidents in a congressional hearing on Dec. 5, 2023. (Courtesy of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce)

Cut Funding

In November, weeks prior to the congressional hearing with the university heads, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona put universities on notice that they could lose federal funding over failure to protect Jewish students.

Similar efforts in Congress, if successful, could also block colleges and universities that enable anti-Semitic attacks from receiving taxpayer funding. First proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the “Ending Subsidies for Pro-Terrorist Activities on Campus Act” now has a companion bill in the House, co-sponsored by Mr. Bean and Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas). It would specifically prevent schools from getting federal student aid.

Taxpayers spend mightily on education, but in the hearing, Rep. Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.) asked whether these institutions and others like them deserve the funding.

“Research investments, student loan guarantees, tax-free status for your endowments, funding for veterans to receive education tied to their prior service … or their ongoing service. It’s been stated several times that this runs in the tens of billions of dollars across higher education, perhaps even into the hundred billions,” Mr. Williams said before questioning Ms. Gay about Harvard’s finances.

The questioning revealed that Harvard has an annual budget of $6 billion, about 19,000 employees, and an endowment of just more than $50 billion.

“You say you believe in accountability. Should the federal government keep shoveling money and privilege to institutions like yours that fail so profoundly in their mission?” Mr. Williams asked. “You’ve had 387 years, and you’ve arrived at this place of virulent anti-Semitism and hate. Why should the federal government continue to partner with you in such a lack of accomplishment?”

Ms. Gay said the federal–university partnership is a critical source of the success of all U.S. higher education, but they have work to do.

If education is the mission, and anti-Semitism is the result, Mr. Williams suggested that it’s a deep-seated problem that started in the early 1920s, when Harvard and other universities restricted the number of Jews at admission.

“Today, we see the fruit of those decisions,” he said. “And it seems to me that the leadership needs moral clarity to understand the moment that we’re in.”

The anti-Semitism igniting on campuses today isn’t new. It’s part of a long history of U.S. anti-Semitism, testified Pamela Nadell of American University, who was the fourth speaker on the panel of the Dec. 5 hearing and is currently writing the book, “Antisemitism, an American Tradition.” She thanked Congress for supporting the project, supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award.

“Quotas on the admission of Jewish students began in the Ivy League in the 1920s and spread to more than 700 private colleges and universities. The campuses also wrestled with the challenge of anti-Semitic speech before this fall. In the early 1990s, Holocaust deniers took out full-page ads in college newspapers,” Ms. Nadell said.

The barbarity of the Hamas terror attack of Oct. 7 adds a terrible new chapter to Jewish history, she said.

“Anyone who claims to care about human rights should denounce these horrors,” Ms. Nadell said.


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