December 7th, 2023

By Jeremiah Poff


The House Education and the Workforce Committee announced Thursday that it is launching an investigation into Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania after the universities’ presidents all refused to say whether calling for the genocide of Jews amounted to harassment that violated university policy.

Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) announced the investigation Thursday after Harvard President Claudine Gay, UPenn President Liz Magill, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth testified at a Tuesday committee hearing on campus antisemitism.

“The testimony we received earlier this week from Presidents Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth about the responses of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT to the rampant antisemitism displayed on their campuses by students and faculty was absolutely unacceptable,” Foxx said in a statement announcing the investigation. “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.”

The hearing was called amid a rise in antisemitic incidents on college campuses since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists launched a series of attacks against Israel that claimed more than 1,200 lives. Student groups on college campuses, such as Students for Justice in Palestine, have repeatedly held protests and issued statements supportive of the attacks and of Hamas while accusing Israel of genocide.

Foxx said the committee intends to seek documents from the universities regarding their “policies and disciplinary procedures” and is prepared to subpoena the schools if necessary.

“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. “The disgusting targeting and harassment of Jewish students is not limited to these institutions, and other universities should expect investigations as well, as their litany of similar failures has not gone unnoticed.”

During the hearing, all three college presidents repeatedly invoked the free speech rights of students to justify a lack of institutional action against student groups that have led protests on college campuses featuring chants such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is commonly understood to mean a call for the elimination of Israel.

Under questioning from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the three presidents refused to say if calling for the “genocide of Jews” rose to the level of harassment and thus violated the code of conduct at each college. Instead, all three presidents avoided answering the question directly with a “yes” or “no” answer while saying that “it can be, depending on the context.”

In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Stefanik said the committee intends to “use our full Congressional authority to hold these schools accountable for their failure on the global stage.”

“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, and Harvard and others,” Stefanik said.

In a statement to the Washington Examiner, a spokesperson for MIT said the institution “rejects antisemitism in all its forms” and would continue to work with the committee.

“Antisemitism is real and rising in the world,” the institution said. “We cannot let it poison our community. That is why MIT has stood up a campus-wide initiative ‘Standing Against Hate’ to ensure that antisemitism has no place in our community. As we continue to undertake this critical effort, MIT will work with the Committee to address its questions.”