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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Why Is There So Much Antisemitism on University Campuses?

Incidents of antisemitism have erupted in many places since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on October 7, 2023. Americans were surprised at the amount of antisemitism shown on college campuses. Some donors reported that they are now dropping donations to such schools. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce called on several college presidents to appear before them today “to explain why antisemitism has been particularly acute on their campuses and what they will do to stop it.” 

President Claudine Gay (Harvard University), President Liz Magill (University of Pennsylvania), and President Sally Kornbluth (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) appeared before the committee today. Jarrett Stepman reported the following key takeaways from the hearing:

Under the heading “Accountability for Antisemitism, or More Excuses?, Stepman reported that Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) read from a speech given recently by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the highest-ranking Jewish politician in America. She acknowledged that Schumer spoke about the rise in antisemitism by the Far Left but failed to mention the antisemitism on college campuses.

“After the events of the past two months, it’s clear that rabid antisemitism and the university are two ideas that cannot be cleaved from one another,” she said while then noting various “diversity, equity, and inclusion” programs that specifically focused on race at Harvard.

She noted that Harvard became “ground zero” for hate directed toward Jews and ascribed the rise in antisemitism to the “race-based ideology” that’s become common on college campuses.

“Institutional antisemitism and hate are among the poisoned fruits of your institutions’ cultures,” Foxx said. She stated that the responsibility for stopping this problem is with the university presidents and their administrations.

Foxx asked the university presidents if they were “willing to confront the ideology now driving antisemitism or whether they would offer ‘weak, blame-shifting excuses in yet another responsibility-dodging task force.” She called this moment “an inflection point” that “demands leaders of moral clarity with the courage to delineate good from evil and right from wrong.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) opened his remarks by reminding his listeners that “historically, college campuses have been hubs for students and faculty to express intellectual thought and expression” but admitted that “campuses have become polarized” since the attacks on October 7.

Even though we are “witnessing a disturbing rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia,” it did not start with the October 7 attack or “with diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.” He added that America has a “centuries-long history of racism and white supremacy” and that Republicans were stocking “culture wars that are divisive and discriminatory.”

The Response from the Academy began with Harvard’s president claiming that her university “condemns the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. “We have seen a dramatic and deeply concerning rise in antisemitism around the world, in the United States, and on our campuses, including my own” since the October 7 attack. She said that she had heard of Jewish students and staff being intimated but claimed that “Harvard’s Arab and Muslim communities were also hurting” because of the rise of incidents of Islamophobia worldwide. She claimed that she has attempted to confront “hate” with “free expression” and arranged for mental health services on campus. She said, “Antisemitism is a symptom of ignorance and the cure for ignorance is knowledge” – a great truth!

The president of University of Pennsylvania also claimed that “she and her campus condemn Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel” that happened with “no justification – none.” She said that she had started a plan to combat antisemitism on November 1 to focus on “safety and security, engagement, and education” and created a task force to “identify concrete, actionable recommendations.”

MIT’s president is Jewish and said that she “abhors antisemitism and condemned the Hamas attack on Israel.” However, she believes that “shutting down the language of the anti-Israel protests is wrong, and that speech needs to be ‘countered with other speech and education, and we’re doing that.” She added that “the right to free speech does not give the right to harass and intimidate.” Although concerned about antisemitism, she is also concerned about prejudice against Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians in the nation and her community.

Foxx asked the university presidents for an explanation for Why So Much Antisemitism and Terrorism Apologia on College Campuses? “The antisemitism we’ve seen on your campuses didn’t come out of nowhere – they’re cultures that your institutions foster because you have faculty and students who hate Jews, hate Israel, and are comfortable apologizing for terror.” She described the situation as one of “institutional and moral rot.”

The university presidents each had an excuse. Harvard’s president noted that “successful professors have to be able to create discussions that bring out many different viewpoints, regardless of political viewpoint.” University of Pennsylvania’s president said that hate is “contrary to our values” and blamed the broader society for the antisemitism. MIT’s president said that the “professors have many viewpoints but that they know the campus must be diverse and welcoming environment.”

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) brought data into the conversation. He said that a study in 2016 “found that 2% of the faculty of Harvard viewed former President Donald Trump ‘as OK or good.’” He continued, “think in the 2020 election, The Harvard Crimson, your local paper there, found 1% of the students voting for Donald Trump.” He then asked the million-dollar question: If the country is “roughly split in half on the issue,” why is there “so little ideological diversity at the university.” Does this concern you? 

The Harvard president replied that they try to have a diverse faculty and strive for academic excellence. Grothman pointed at the numbers again and said, “When you compare the way people think at your campus compared to America as a whole, if there’s one thing you are, it’s not diverse.”


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