Lawmakers Question College Presidents on Antisemitism Response

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The presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) testified Tuesday in front of the Republican-led House Committee on Education and Workforce regarding their response to rising antisemitism on their campuses.

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. increased 388% since the Hamas attack on October 7 through October 23, reports the ADL, formerly known as the Anti-Defamation League. During the same month, a 300% increase in calls for help and reports of bias were reported by the Council on American Islamic Relations.

At Capitol Hill, Claudine Gay of Harvard, Elizabeth Magill of Penn, and Sally Kornbluth of MIT acknowledged the surge in antisemitic incidents as well as Islamophobic hate.

“MIT will take on both, not lumped together, but with equal energy and in parallel,” said Kornbluth.

The presidents said they are working to address incidents on their campuses and pointed to steps to increase security and expand mental health support.

“Harvard must provide firm leadership in the fight against antisemitism and hate speech even while preserving room for free expression and dissent,” Gay said. “This is difficult work, and I admit that we have not always gotten it right. As Harvard’s president, I am personally responsible for confronting antisemitism with the urgency it demands.”

Republican legislators probed administrators on topics like when disciplinary action on campus community members is taken and how they spend university funding. Some Republicans also raised concerns about the influence of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) ideologies and related programs on their campuses, suggesting a link to the management of antisemitic incidents.

Several Democrats questioned Republican colleagues on work about cutting funding for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The office is investigating several universities regarding incidents of alleged antisemitism and Islamophobia, including Penn and Harvard.