Harvard, Penn and MIT presidents to testify before Congress on antisemitism

Photo courtesy of CNN
Originally Published: 28 NOV 23 11:27 ET
Updated: 28 NOV 23 12:54 ET

New York (CNN) — The presidents of Harvard University, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania are scheduled to testify before Congress next week at a hearing on antisemitism on campus, lawmakers announced Tuesday.

The hearing, set for December 5, will be held by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. It comes as tensions have surged on some college campuses following the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas against Israel.

Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, who chairs the committee, is vowing to hold university leaders accountable for antisemitism in the wake of Hamas attack and amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The hearing announcement makes no mention of plans to investigate Islamophobia or other forms of hate.

“College administrators have largely stood by, allowing horrific rhetoric to fester and grow,” Foxx said in a statement. “College and university presidents have a responsibility to foster and uphold a safe learning environment for their students and staff. Now is not a time for indecision or milquetoast statements.”

According to the House committee, the hearing will include testimony from Harvard President Claudine Gay, MIT President Sally Kornbluth and Penn President Liz Magill.

“President Gay looks forward to sharing updates and information on the university’s work to support the Harvard community and combat antisemitism,” Harvard spokesperson Jason Newton said in a statement to CNN.

An MIT spokesperson confirmed Kornbluth plans to testify next week, saying the school president “welcomes the opportunity to engage” with lawmakers.

“President Magill understands the critical importance of fighting antisemitism and other forms of hate on Penn’s campus and looks forward to sharing the actions Penn is taking at next week’s hearing,” Penn spokesperson Steve Silverman told CNN in a statement.

In recent weeks, there have been hundreds of protests and counterprotests on college campuses, with some of them turning violent.

The faces and names of some students allegedly linked to anti-Israel statements were displayed on mobile billboards near the campuses of both Harvard and Columbia. Another Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania, alerted the FBI to violent antisemitic threats made against some faculty members.

Last weekend three Palestinian college students were shot in Burlington, Vermont. Authorities are investigating whether the attack was motivated by hate.

The Department of Education recently launched a first-of-its-kind investigation into seven schools, including Cornell University, Columbia and Penn, after receiving complaints about alleged incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Some angry donors have vowed to close their checkbooks in protest to how schools have handled alleged acts of antisemitism. Private-equity billionaire Marc Rowan has organized a campaign to oust Magill as president of Penn, an effort backed by prominent alumni including “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf and former US Ambassador Jon Huntsman.

Another billionaire, hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman, blasted students who protest against Israel, telling CNN: “These kids in college have sh*t for brains.”

Earlier this month, Nir Barkat, Israel’s minister of economy and industry, told CNN that American universities that fail to crack down on antisemitism will pay a “heavy price.”

Facing criticism from officials and donors, some universities have unveiled new steps aimed at countering antisemitism and hate. Earlier this month, Columbia announced a task force on antisemitism to fight what the school described as an “ancient, but terribly resilient, form of hatred.”

The University of Pennsylvania also announced an action plan designed to fight antisemitism. After antisemitic messages were displayed on campus buildings, Magill condemned the action, writing: “Projecting hateful messages on our campus is not debate, it is cowardice, and it has no place at Penn.”

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