December 13th, 2023
By Ryan King
House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution Wednesday condemning antisemitism on campuses across America — singling out the presidents of Harvard and MIT as well as the former president of Penn over their excuses for violent anti-Jew demonstrations in congressional testimony last week.
The resolution, sponsored by two lawmakers from each party, also demanded that Harvard President Claudine Gay and her MIT counterpart, Sally Kornbluth, follow the lead of Penn’s Elizabeth Magill and resign their positions.
“This is not a partisan issue but a question of moral clarity,” House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) said in a statement.
“We are only just beginning to address the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has infected America’s higher education system and we will not stop until it is rooted out.”
The measure — fronted by Stefanik, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) — was approved 303-126, with 219 Republicans and 84 Democrats voting “yea.”
Three Democrats — Julia Brownley and Jimmy Gomez of California as well as Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania — voted “present,” while Thomas Massie of Kentucky was the lone Republican “nay.”
Stefanik made worldwide headlines with her questioning of Gay, Kornbluth and Magill during the Dec. 5 House Education and Workforce Committee hearing, during which she asked whether calls for an “intifada” against Israel violated each university’s student code of conduct.
“We embrace a commitment to free expression – even views that are objectionable, offensive [and] hateful,” Gay responded after repeated prodding by Stefanik. “It’s when that speech crosses into conduct that violates our policies against bullying and harassment. That speech did not cross that barrier.”
Korthbluth said that MIT wanted to “ensure that we protect speech and viewpoint diversity for everyone.”
“Those who want us to shut down protest language are in effect, arguing for a speech code, but in practice, speech codes do not work.”
Magill, who stepped down Dec. 9, told Stefanik that it would be a “context-dependent decision” about whether demanding the murder of Jews constituted bullying or harassment.
“Students are scared to be Jewish on campus and these presidents’ answers before Congress reinforced their failures of leadership over the last few months,” Gottheimer said in a statement. “… As a dad, I don’t ever want any student — regardless of background — to feel scared to be who they are at school.”
Several Democrats publicly panned the resolution.
“They’re not the answers I would’ve given for one minute — they didn’t show any common sense at all, but guess who’s not showing any common sense right now? People who are about to get swept away with Elise Stefanik’s McCarthy-like crusade” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told CNN.
“I don’t think the Congress of the United States needs to be dictating to [colleges] who should resign and who shouldn’t.”
Manhattan Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) echoed that sentiment, calling the resolution a “gross overreach” that lacked tangible steps to combat antisemitism.
“Congress should not meddle in the hiring and firing of college presidents,” he said.
On Dec. 7, lawmakers announced that they were opening a formal investigation into antisemitism on campuses across the country.
Over the weekend, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) dangled the prospect of cutting off federal funds to campuses that fail to address the issue, telling Fox News Sunday that “we cannot tolerate taxpayer dollars going to institutions that allow for antisemitism and for calling for genocide of the Jews.”