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HomeGeneralHarvard, MIT, and Penn Presidents Spark Controversy With Response to Antisemitism

Harvard, MIT, and Penn Presidents Spark Controversy With Response to Antisemitism

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A picture of the Ivy League University presidents
Source: NYPost/Twitter

The Harvard, MIT, and UPenn presidents sparked fury with their response to a question at a congressional hearing. The three faced a fierce backlash from students and alums that stretched to the White House. Billionaire and Harvard alum Bill Ackman also called for their immediate resignation. 

He alleged that their answers before the congressional panel reflected a “moral bankruptcy. “The presidents’ answers reflect the profound educational, moral, and ethical failures that pervade certain of our elite educational institutions due largely to their failed leadership,” Ackman wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

This backlash stems from the three presidents’ refusal to say whether calling for the genocide of Jews violates their policies. The college presidents, Claudine Gay of Harvard, Liz Magill of the University of Pennsylvania, and Sally Kornbluth of MIT, have all come under scrutiny over how their institutions handled a rise in antisemitism on their campuses since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

ALSO READ: A Major Crisis is Rocking Harvard University as White Males Protest Discrimination

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The university presidents testified during a hearing before the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce. During the hearing, they faced tough questions as their campuses have become hotbeds for protests, anti-Jewish graffiti, and harassment.

However, their response to questions about whether calling for the genocide of Jews violates their schools’ code of conduct against bullying and harassment sparked controversy. All three offered carefully worded statements despite repeated attempts by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y) to get them to answer.

Gay responded that hateful speech contradicts Harvard’s values and that calling for the genocide of Jews is antisemitic. However, when asked whether it violates the code of ethics, she replied, “It can be, depending on the context.” Magill responded to the same question: “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment. Yes.”

POLL — Is Systemic Racism a Significant Problem That Requires Reform in Policing and Other Areas?

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Also, Kornbluth distinguished between speech and conduct. She suggested that calling for the genocide of Jews would violate the college’s rules “if targeted at individuals.” Consequently, Stefanik called the president’s response “unacceptable and antisemitic.” “They all must resign immediately today,” she wrote on X.

In addition, Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth’s responses infuriated officials at the White House. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said calls for genocide are “vile” and “counter to everything this country stands for.”

“Statements that advocate for the systemic murder of Jews are appalling, and we should all stand against them,” she said. “..We should be calling out this type of hate. However, Jean-Pierre declined to say whether the university presidents should resign. She said, “They have to speak for themselves on this.”

ALSO: Rep. Elise Stefanik Is Expecting Three University Presidents to Resign: ‘One Down, Two To Go’

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Also, Lior Alon, a postdoctoral associate at MIT, said the presidents’ response was embarrassing. “None of them was able to say calling for the genocide of the Jewish people is bad, and it’s harassment, that we don’t want it on our campus,” said Alon. “For me, it was a shock. I cannot express how unwelcome I feel now.”

Similarly, Liyam Chitayat, a Ph.D. student at MIT, said she also found the presidents’ testimony alarming. “It’s not that Jewish and Israeli students don’t feel unsafe. They are unsafe,” Chitayat said.

In addition, former Harvard President Larry Summers joined the long list of angry critics. Summers said the way the university leaders responded “to what is pretty clearly antisemitism” shows “a double standard.” 

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