Harvard president Claudine Gay defends Palestine marches at heated congressional hearing on antisemitism

The presidents of Harvard, UPenn and MIT were shamed by Republicans and college students today for their lack of action against campus antisemitism at a heated congressional hearing. 

The three female presidents were all grilled for hours about the angry protests at their schools and what they have done to protect Jewish students, many of whom say they now feel unsafe going to class. 

While all condemned Hamas and disavowed antisemitism generally, they refused to speak against students calling for the genocide of Jews, and said such speech was allowed – ‘even if it is hateful’. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) was dogged in her questioning of the leaders, demanding to know whether such calls for Jew genocide violated their policies on bullying on harassment. 

Dr. Claudine Gay – Harvard’s $900,000-a-year president who has been in the job for five months – replied: ‘If the speech becomes conduct it can be harassment.’ 

‘Conduct being committing the act of genocide?’ Stefanik shot back. 

Gay and the other presidents said the incidents were ‘context-based decisions.’  

‘I haven’t always gotten it right,’ said Harvard President Dr. Claudine Gay in her opening remarks

Dr. Gay was grilled by New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik

Dr. Gay was grilled by New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik 

All three conceded the rising antisemitism and vowed to crack down on it, but used their testimony to say there have ‘also’ been ‘rising incidents of Islamophobia’. 

Gay, under heated questioning from Republicans, failed to acknowledge the school’s undeniable liberal bias, insisting neither she nor the school tracks the political leanings of faculty. 

She refused to accept that certain faculty members had been fired after sharing their conservative views, and claimed the school ‘doesn’t keep track of professors’ politics.  

While chants for ‘Intifada’ or the eradication of Israel were ‘personally abhorrent’ to her, she said they did not meet the level of violating the school’s code of conduct. 

‘Does the phrase intifada not breach your code of conduct?’ Gay was asked by Rep. Elise Stefanik. 

‘We embrace a commitment to free expression – even of views that are objectionable, offensive, hateful,’ Gay replied. 

UPenn President Liz Magill said the school had demonstrated its 'unyielding commitment to combatting antisemitism'

UPenn President Liz Magill said the school had demonstrated its ‘unyielding commitment to combatting antisemitism’

MIT President Dr. Sally Kornbluth was also grilled for her school's response to protests

MIT President Dr. Sally Kornbluth was also grilled for her school’s response to protests 

A woman holds a placard as supporters of a ceasefire in Gaza gather before a House Education and The Workforce Committee hearing titled "Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism

A woman holds a placard as supporters of a ceasefire in Gaza gather before a House Education and The Workforce Committee hearing titled “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism

Other pro-Palestine protesters turned up to support the Ivy League school leaders

Other pro-Palestine protesters turned up to support the Ivy League school leaders

None of the school leaders could answer when asked by Rep. Joe Wilson how many conservative faculty members they hired. 

All three college presidents said they didn’t ‘collect that kind of data’ when hiring staff. 

‘There is no diversity of thought and the result of that is antisemitism. You might look into that,’ he said. 

Before the hearing, Jewish NYU student Bella Ingber gave a blistering analysis of on-campus life. 

Before the hearing, Jewish NYU student Bella Ingber gave a blistering analysis of on-campus life

Before the hearing, Jewish NYU student Bella Ingber gave a blistering analysis of on-campus life

‘Being a Jew at NYU is experiencing how ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ is not a value that NYU extends to its Jewish students,’ she said.  

Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, in her opening statements, said the three presidents have failed to ensure the safety of Jewish students out of fear for upsetting their liberal student bodies, who are overwhelmingly anti-Israel. 

‘Harvard was ground zero for antisemitism following October 7th attack.

‘It is the single least tolerant school in the nation. UPenn was right behind them and MIT sits in the middle of the pack,’ she fumed.

The schools’ collective failure to condemn Hamas has triggered a donor vacuum where the generous Jewish alumni once stood. 

At the beginning of the hearing, the committee displayed a video compilation of antisemitic incidents on campus

At the beginning of the hearing, the committee displayed a video compilation of antisemitic incidents on campus

One of the many pro-Palestine campus protests that Republicans say have labeled ‘morally reprehensible’ 

In addition to larger, mostly peaceful protests, there have been singular incidents of violence against Jewish students on some of the school campuses. 

‘I want to ask them when they’re going to get a spine and do what it is what they should be doing which is condemning terrorism and doing what they can to protect their students,’ Foxx said last night in an appearance on Newsmax before Tuesday’s hearing. 

Harvard President Dr. Claudine Gay, UPenn President Liz Magill and MIT President Sally Kornbluth will all be called to testify before the committee. 

The hearing will also include testimony from Dr. Pamela Nadell, Professor of History and Jewish Studies, American University. 

In November, more than 1,600 Harvard alumni threatened to withdraw donations in protest over the school’s response to the protests. 

At 10.15am, leaders from the three schools will be grilled by Republican lawmakers sitting on the House Committee on Education & the Workforce

At 10.15am, leaders from the three schools will be grilled by Republican lawmakers sitting on the House Committee on Education & the Workforce

Foxx has been outspoken in her criticism of the schools and their approaches. 

‘Antisemitism has no place in America, especially not on college campuses. Colleges and universities have become a breeding ground for radical ideology. 

‘That fact has never been more evident as campus demonstrations in support of Hamas and other terrorist organizations erupt.

‘Not only are these demonstrations morally reprehensible, but they also incite violence against Jewish students and staff. 

‘The passage of this resolution is a good first step, but I can assure you, we will not stop here. 

‘Soon the Committee will hold a hearing on combating antisemitism.

‘I will continue to demand accountability for this kind of hateful and violent rhetoric,’ she said earlier this month. 

Bill Ackman (pictured), the CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management has also spoken out and pulled his donations to his Alma mater

Leslie Wexner (pictured), the former CEO of L Brands recently pulled the Wexner Foundation's funding for the college that supported Israel professionals to purse a one-year degree from the Harvard Kennedy School

Bill Ackman (left), the CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management has also spoken out and pulled his donations to his Alma mater. Les Wexner (right) pulled his foundation’s Harvard funding in protest of its response to the issue

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