December 7th, 2023
By Caroline Downey
The House Education and the Workforce Committee announced Thursday it will investigate Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania over allegations that the prestigious colleges have failed to address rampant antisemitism on their campuses.
The announcement comes after Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) and fellow committee Republicans grilled Harvard president Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth during a contentious Tuesday hearing on the rise of antisemitism in the wake of the Hamas attack of October 7.
“After this week’s pathetic and morally bankrupt testimony by university presidents when answering my questions, the Education and Workforce Committee is launching an official Congressional investigation with the full force of subpoena power into Penn, MIT, & Harvard and others,” Stefanik said in a statement.
Pressed on whether calls for “intifada” and chants such as “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free,” which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, violate campus codes of conduct, the university presidents argued that the slogans fell within the bounds of protected speech and said they could not interfere unless demonstrations degenerated into physical violence.
Asked specifically whether “calling for Jewish genocide” constitutes an infringement of school policy, the presidents argued that such a statement would also fall within the bounds of protected speech. But their administrations have staked out a different position with respect to speech that allegedly threatens the safety of so-called marginalized communities on campus. Harvard is ranked dead last on the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s free-speech ranking list.
Within 24 hours, following public backlash to their blasé attitudes, Gay and Magill issued supplementary statements assuring that they condemn calls for genocide against the Jewish community.
House Education and Workforce chairwoman Virginia Foxx said the presidents’ poor showing has created “deep concerns with their leadership.” Demands that the presidents resign have circulated on X. The committee’s probe will look into the college’s learning environments, policies, and disciplinary protocols.
“This investigation will include substantial document requests, and the Committee will not hesitate to utilize compulsory measures including subpoenas if a full response is not immediately forthcoming,” Foxx said in a statement.“Other universities should expect investigations as well, as their litany of similar failures has not gone unnoticed.”