December 7th, 2023
By Elise Stefanik
What constitutes bullying and harassment at Harvard? A mandatory Title IX training last year warned all undergraduate students that “cisheterosexism,” “fatphobia” and “using the wrong pronouns” qualified as “abuse” and perpetuated “violence” on campus.
But when I asked Harvard President Claudine Gay at a congressional hearing whether calls for the genocide of Jews violated the university’s rules on bullying and harassment, she answered: “It depends on the context.” Pressed further, she said it would qualify “when it crosses into conduct.” I received similar answers from the presidents of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania.
This lack of moral clarity is shocking. If only it were surprising. In the months since Oct. 7, the mainstreaming of anti-Jewish hate has been on full display at the poisoned Ivy League and other so-called elite schools, as has the gutless lack of response from university leaders. When 34 Harvard student groups signed a statement that they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence,” Ms. Gay and other Harvard leaders were silent for days.
Since then, we have heard reports of Jewish students being spat on, verbally accosted and, in a widely circulated video, physically assaulted. We’ve seen students march chanting “There is only one solution: Intifada revolution,” a call for violence against Israel. They follow that with a chant of “Globalize the Intifada,” implying that the hatred of Israel is a hatred of Jews everywhere, including on campus.
The Penn, Harvard and MIT presidents’ refusal to identify these calls for violence as policy violations is revealing, and their attempt to justify it with feigned concern for free speech is insulting. Just this year, Harvard placed dead last among 248 universities on the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s College Free Speech Rankings, receiving the only score of zero out of 100.
Where was Harvard’s concern for free speech when it disinvited feminist philosopher Devin Buckley from a colloquium on campus last year because of her views on transgender issues? Where was its concern for free speech in 2020 when it revoked conservative activist Kyle Kashuv’s acceptance because of social media posts he made as a 16-year-old, or in 2017 when it revoked admission for 10 incoming freshmen who shared offensive memes on Facebook? Apparently the same outrage doesn’t apply to students sharing antisemitic memes on Slack today, as Bill Ackman noted in his letter to Harvard last month.
While this hypocrisy is being exposed now, it has been festering for years. The failure to call out and punish those demanding the genocide of Jewish people is the consequence of decades of appeasement of radicalism and watering down of principle at our most hallowed institutions of higher education, which were founded as bastions of moral clarity and the pursuit of truth.
In March, Harvard student Sabrina Goldfischer presented her thesis, “The Death of Discourse: Antisemitism at Harvard College.” Her research details rampant antisemitism, including classmates questioning and playing down the Holocaust, a professor suggesting that a Jewish student had “bargaining in his blood” and antisemitic slurs shouted in Harvard Square. She found that 62.5% of Jewish students reported having experienced antisemitism or knowing someone who had.
The leaders of these universities want us to believe they face, through no fault of their own, a predicament for which they have no responsibility or accountability. In fact, they are directly responsible for the vile antisemitic hatred overrunning their campuses. For years they have selectively enforced their own policies to weed out certain viewpoints while fostering others, and now they are reaping the harvest.
The pathetic testimony of the Harvard, Penn and MIT presidents has been viewed more than a billion times worldwide, making it the most viewed congressional testimony in history—deservedly so, because it shocked the conscience of the world. The only acceptable consequence is that the boards immediately replace them with leaders who will restore moral clarity.