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University Presidents Testify About Antisemitism Spreading on Campuses. Here Are the Key Takeaways.

By Jarrett Stepman 

 

Incidents of antisemitism have exploded on American college campuses following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. Several college presidents appeared before a House committee on Tuesday to explain why antisemitism has been particularly acute on their campuses and what they will do to stop it.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce heard from Harvard University President Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth.

Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, testifying at a microphone before Congress

Here are some key takeaways from the hearing.

Accountability for Antisemitism, or More Excuses?

Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., read from a speech Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., recently delivered. Schumer is the highest-ranking Jewish politician in America.

In the speech, Schumer said that many of those expressing antisemitism right now “aren’t neo-Nazis or card-carrying Klan members or Islamist extremists.”

Instead, he said that they are people “most liberal Jewish Americans felt previously were their ideological fellow travelers.”

Foxx noted that while Schumer did a good job of acknowledging the antisemitism on the far Left, he did not mention college campuses.

“After the events of the past two months, it’s clear that rabid antisemitism and the university are two ideas that cannot be cleaved from one another,” she said while then noting various “diversity, equity, and inclusion” programs that specifically focused on race at Harvard.

She noted that Harvard became “ground zero” for hate directed toward Jews and ascribed the rise in antisemitism to the “race-based ideology” that’s become common on college campuses.

“Institutional antisemitism and hate are among the poisoned fruits of your institutions’ cultures,” Foxx said. She stated that the responsibility for stopping this problem is with the university presidents and their administrations.

She asked if these university representatives were willing to confront the ideology now driving antisemitism or whether they would offer “weak, blame-shifting excuses in yet another responsibility-dodging task force.”

“This moment is an inflection point. It demands leaders of moral clarity with the courage to delineate good from evil and right from wrong,” she said.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said in his opening statement that, historically, college campuses have been hubs for students and faculty to express intellectual thought and expression. He said that following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, campuses have become polarized.

“We’ve been witnessing a disturbing rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia,” he said.

Scott said that antisemitism didn’t start with the Oct. 7 attack or with diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

He said that America has a “centuries-long history of racism and white supremacy.”

The Virginia Congressman said that Republicans were stoking “culture wars that are divisive and discriminatory.”

Response From the Academy

Harvard’s president said her university condemns the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. She said that since that incident, “We have seen a dramatic and deeply concerning rise in antisemitism around the world, in the United States, and on our campuses, including my own.”

Gay said she had heard of incidents of intimidation of Jews from students and staff on her campus.

“At the same time, I know members of Harvard’s Arab and Muslim communities are also hurting,” she said. “During these past months, the world, our nation, and our campuses have also seen a rise in incidents of Islamophobia.”

She said she has attempted to confront “hate” with “free expression.” In addition, she said that the campus has augmented mental health services.

“Antisemitism is a symptom of ignorance, and the cure for ignorance is knowledge,” Gay said.

University of Pennsylvania’s president said that she and her campus condemn Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel…

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