Congress Launches Probe into Anti-Semitism Row at Harvard, Univ of Pennsylvania, MIT

The universities under scrutiny include Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT.

In a significant move on Thursday, US lawmakers initiated a probe into incidents of anti-Semitism at three leading universities. The investigation was prompted by a contentious debate over whether student protests, advocating for the genocide of Jews, should be classified as harassment. The universities under scrutiny include Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT.

investigations against top universities

The inquiry was triggered following a hearing in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, where the presidents of the aforementioned universities faced backlash for their responses to questions about the rise of anti-Semitism on campuses since the October 7 attack on Israel.

During the five-hour hearing, Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania presidents were questioned about whether pro-Palestinian student activists calling for "Jewish genocide" violated their institutions' codes of conduct on harassment. However, all three leaders equivocated, asserting that the classification would depend on the context and whether it led to individual bullying.

Expressing disappointment with the university presidents' testimony, Representative Elise Stefanik, the fourth-ranking House Republican, announced the launch of an official congressional investigation. This probe will employ substantial document requests and compulsory measures, including subpoenas.

"After this week's pathetic and morally bankrupt testimony by university presidents when answering my questions, the Education and Workforce Committee is launching an official congressional investigation with the full force of subpoena power into Penn, MIT, Harvard, and others," stated Representative Stefanik. "We will use our full congressional authority to hold these schools accountable for their failure on the global stage."

During the hearing, Stefanik, a Harvard alumna, called for the resignations of the university presidents. Harvard President Claudine Gay, in a statement on Wednesday, attempted to clarify her earlier comments, emphasizing that the right to free expression should not be confused with condoning calls for violence against Jewish students.

In a video statement, Penn President Liz Magill acknowledged that she should have focused on the undeniable fact that a call for the genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. The bipartisan backlash to the hearing extended to the White House, with President Joe Biden's spokesman condemning calls for genocide as "monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country."

The broader context of the investigation coincides with ongoing tensions in the region, particularly the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The October attack, which saw militants breaking through Gaza's militarized border, has resulted in a significant death toll and ongoing hostilities. The investigation aims to address concerns about rising anti-Semitism on university campuses and ensure accountability for any failure to address such issues effectively.