May 23, 2024

By Jacob Kornbluh


Rep. Elise Stefanik lit into the Jewish president of Northwestern University Thursday morning over his handling of antisemitism at his college, much as she had grilled other university presidents who testified before the House Education Committee.

But Michael Schill, while clearly frustrated by Stefanik’s attempts to paint him as callous toward the sufferings of Jewish students, calmly defended his response to pro-Palestinian protesters, which included a deal to get them to dismantle their encampment voluntarily.

There are “lots of investigations underway,” Schill said after Stefanik listed allegations of antisemitic incidents on campus, including Jewish students being assaulted, harassed and spat on. She wanted to know how many students had been expelled or suspended yet. None yet had, Schill said, leaving open the possibility that some would.

“We will investigate any claim of discrimination or harassment,” Schill repeated. 

“This is why you’ve earned an F” from the Anti-Defamation League, Stefanik interrupted, folding up a copy of the ADL certificate. 

Northwestern is among 13 schools that received failing grades on a recent ADL report card for what the group described as failures to protect Jewish students from antisemitism. Studies show that antisemitism has risen markedly on campuses since Oct. 7. The ADL has called for Schill’s resignation for negotiating with protesters, who have been accused of promoting antisemitism as they criticize Israel for its military campaign in Gaza.

Thursday’s was the third of a series of House Education Committee hearings in which Republicans have lambasted college presidents over antisemitism. It focused on three who had cut deals with pro-Palestinian protesters to take down “Gaza Solidarity encampments.” Schill testified alongside Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway and Gene Block, chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Schill told the committee that the deal with protesters gave Jewish students “the ability to feel safe on campus.”

Stefanik, a New Yorker whom former President Trump said he would consider for a running mate in the 2024 presidential election, also asked Schill if he had inquired about the possibility of hiring an “anti-Zionist head of Hillel,” citing whistleblowers who approached the committee.

Schill firmly denied it: “I did not. I absolutely did not. I would never hire anyone based upon their views of being Zionist or anti-Zionist.” 

She questioned Schill about the lack of suspensions or expulsions at Northwestern over antisemitic behavior and what he meant when he told the committee that “discipline has been meted out.”

“Discipline has run the gamut,” he answered. “From meetings with student affairs staff at the very lowest level of severity up to disciplinary probation, which means if there is another offense, students will be expelled or suspended.” 

While there seemed to be no “gotcha” moments at the hearing for Schill, Holloway’s exchange with another Republican on the committee harkened back to Stefanik’s with college presidents at December’s hearing. That exchange went viral — and helped pave the way toward two college presidents’ resignations.

Rep. Bob Good of Virginia asked Holloway if he would say that “the Israeli government is not genocidal.” 

“I don’t have an opinion on Israel in terms of that phrase,” Holloway replied. “I think Israel has a right to exist and to protect itself.” 

“You can’t be surprised by the topic of discussion today, and you can’t say the Israeli government is not genocidal,” said Good. “That’s interesting.”  

Stefanik gained national prominence in December for her questioning of college presidents Liz Magill of the University of Pennsylvania and Claudine Gay of Harvard. Both gave lawyerly answers to Stefanik’s question as to whether their college’s code of conduct permits a call for the genocide of Jews. Magill and Gay — who was also embroiled in a plagiarism scandal — resigned not long after the hearing.

The committee in April questioned Nemat Shafik, president of Columbia University, where protesters erected the first “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.” Shafil called in police to dismantle it and arrest students, a move that spurred protesters at dozens of universities across the country to erect similar tent encampments.

Calls for her to resign have come from both conservatives, like House Speaker Mike Johnson, who faulted her for tolerating the protesters, and those who criticized her for calling the police to arrest them.

Unlike at Northwestern, Rutgers and UCLA, most encampments have been forcibly cleared, with police arresting students. At least 3,025 people have been arrested on the campuses of 61 colleges and universities, according to The Associated Press.