StandWithUs is deeply disturbed by the lack of accountability, transparency, and urgency from the presidents of Harvard University, UPenn, and MIT, who were called to testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee on December 6, 2023 about their response to the shocking outbreak of antisemitism at their universities since the October 7th Hamas massacre. These universities have become hotbeds for some of the most egregious, aggressive, and threatening cases of antisemitism. This hate has created a hostile climate at these campuses, with students reporting serious concerns about their safety.
While each administrator condemned antisemitism in general, when asked pointed questions about the specific actions and steps they’ve taken to fight antisemitism and hold members of their campus communities accountable, they could not offer any concrete examples. Throughout the 5-hour hearing, Presidents Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth offered little more than deflections and empty platitudes.
For example, Gay acknowledged the hate inherent in cries for “intifada” (calling for the mass murder of Jews), describing such rhetoric as abhorrent. However, she was unable to offer a clear answer as to whether vile and dangerous calls for genocide against Jews violate school policy. Her response that “it depends on the context” left students, faculty, and alumni seriously disappointed and provided the Jewish community no reason to expect the administration to do the work necessary to improve the campus environment. It also suggested a lack of understanding about Harvard's own policies regarding discriminatory harassment. Similarly, Magill described a video of a campus demonstration featuring such cries as “very hard to watch” but was likewise unable (or unwilling) to clarify whether such expressive activity, directly targeting members of the campus community, constitutes a violation of any university policy.
These noncommittal responses were especially troubling given the clear acknowledgment by Magill that these calls are likely to cause a fearful reaction from many. Administrators may rightly recognize the objectively dangerous and fear-inducing nature of students marching through campus calling for the broad-scale murder of Jews, including justifications of the October 7th massacre. However, when they are unable to say whether that runs afoul of campus policies, we have a real problem that requires, at a minimum, new policies—and perhaps new administrators. At a time when strong leadership, conviction, red lines, and moral clarity should have been displayed, these administrators completely missed the mark. It is urgent that they, along with many of their peers across the country, do better.
We appreciate President Magill’s post-hearing statement finally acknowledging that calls for the genocide of Jews do in fact constitute harassment and intimidation and committing to reviewing and revising campus policies in accordance with that recognition. We look forward to seeing Penn’s updated policies in this regard and call upon other administrators to follow suit.
We applaud the student leaders – representing the universities in question and others – who courageously testified at the hearing about their personal experiences with antisemitism. StandWithUs will not stop fighting for students and for a better, safer campus climate. We will continue to call out antisemitism, pursue meaningful action, and hold universities accountable for not doing more to protect their Jewish student communities.