Lawmakers Demand Governing Boards of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn Fire Their Presidents After Controversial Hearing

Aaron Pan
By Aaron Pan
December 9, 2023Israel–Hamas War

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is demanding the governing board members of Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) dismiss their presidents following their controversial responses at a campus anti-Semitism hearing.

In a Dec. 5 letter, 72 lawmakers expressed their disappointment over the responses from the three college presidents during the hearing “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Anti-Semitism” held the same day.

At the testimony, when asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews violates rules or the code of conduct of the universities regarding bullying or harassment, all three presidents gave carefully guarded, evasive answers, avoiding saying outright that such action violates their college rules.

Harvard President Claudine Gay and UPenn President Liz Magill said it depends on context, while MIT President Sally Kornbluth said that it might be considered harassment “if targeted at individuals, not making public statements.”

In the letter, the group, led by Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), noted that “The university presidents’ responses to questions aimed at addressing the growing trend of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses were abhorrent.”

“This should have been an easy and resounding ‘yes.'”

“There is no context in which calls for the genocide of Jews are acceptable rhetoric. Their failure to unequivocally condemn calls for the systematic murder of Jews is deeply alarming. It stands in stark contrast to the principles we expect leaders of top academic institutions to uphold,” the letter wrote.

“It is hard to imagine any Jewish or Israeli student, faculty, or staff feeling safe when presidents of your member institutions could not say that calls for the genocide of Jews would have clear consequences on your campus.”

Following the widespread backlash, Ms. Magill posted a video on UPenn X to clarify her answer at the hearing.

“In that moment, I was focused on our university’s long-standing policies, aligned with the U.S. Constitution, which says that speech alone is not punishable,” she said. “I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It’s evil, plain and simple.”

Harvard’s President also released a statement, saying, “Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”

However, the lawmakers argued that the clarification reflects “desperate attempts to try and save their jobs by condemning genocide are too little too late.”

The letter noted that top university leadership plays a crucial part in “shaping the moral compass of our future leaders” and significantly needs to reflect a firm commitment to combating anti-Semitism and other types of hate speech.

The lawmakers then called for these college presidents to be fired. “Given this moment of crisis, we demand that your boards immediately remove each of these presidents from their positions and that you provide an actionable plan to ensure that Jewish and Israeli students, teachers, and faculty are safe on your campuses,” the lawmakers said.

“Anything less than these steps will be seen as your endorsement of what Presidents Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth said to Congress and an act of complicity in their antisemitic posture,” the letter warns.

Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, a Harvard alumnus and a vocal critic of colleges for their failed responses to campus anti-Semitism, posted on X following the testimony.

“The presidents’ answers reflect the profound educational, moral, and ethical failures that pervade certain of our elite educational institutions due in large part to their failed leadership,” Mr. Ackman said. “They must all resign in disgrace.”

On Dec. 7, six Pennsylvania GOP congressmen sent a letter to the UPenn Board of Trustees chair, calling the university to fire Ms. Magill. Additionally, an online petition demanding Ms. Magill to resign has more than 25,000 signatures by Dec. 9.

In another move, MIT Corporation Chair Mark Gorenberg wrote on Dec. 7 that the Committee of the MIT Corporation “entirely support President Kornbluth,” stating Ms. Kornbluth “has done excellent work in leading our community, including in addressing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, all of which we reject utterly at MIT.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to Harvard, MIT, and UPenn for comment.


On Dec. 7, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) of the House Education and Workforce Committee announced that the committee had launched an investigation of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn. The committee said it would review the schools’ policies and disciplinary records and examine “their seemingly deplorable record.”

“The testimony we received earlier this week from Presidents Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth about the responses of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT to the rampant anti-Semitism displayed on their campuses by students and faculty was absolutely unacceptable,” Ms. Foxx said.

In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Education opened civil rights investigations into multiple schools and universities following allegations of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Among the higher education institutions under investigation are four Ivy League schools: Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), from Oct. 7 to Nov. 7, one month after the war began, anti-Semitism on campus has increased by more than 10 times—from 12 cases in 2022 to 124 over the same period. Its latest study with Hillel International found that 73 percent of Jewish college students have encountered or witnessed anti-Semitism since the beginning of the 2023–2024 academic year.

From The Epoch Times

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