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MIT, Penn, Harvard presidents won’t say if calling for genocide of Jews violates policy

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On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y, asked the presidents of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University whether calling for the genocide of Jews on their campuses violates their universities’ bullying and harassment policies.

The presidents testified before the House Committee on Education & the Workforce in a hearing entitled, “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism,” specifically addressing complaints at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ivey League universities of Harvard and Penn.

Stefanik asked MIT president, Dr. Sally Kornbluth, “At MIT, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate MIT’s code of conduct or rules regarding bullying and harassment, yes or no?”

Kornbluth replied, “If targeted individuals, not making public statements.”

“Yes or no, calling for the genocide of Jews does not constitute bullying and harassment?” Stefanik asked again.

“I have not heard calling for the genocide of Jews on our campus,” Kornbluth replied.

“But you’ve heard chants for intifada,” Stefanik said, referring to calls for armed uprisings by Palestinians against Israeli “occupiers.”

“I’ve heard chants, which can be antisemitic depending on the context when calling for the elimination of the Jewish people,” Kornbluth replied, which “would be investigated as harassment if pervasive and severe.”

Stefanik asked the same yes or no question of University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill, who replied, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment.”

Stefanick repeated the question: “Does calling for the genocide of Jews constitute bullying or harassment.”

“If it is directed and severe and pervasive, it is harassment,” Magill replied.

“So the answer is yes,” Stefanik followed up.

“It is a context-dependent decision,” Magill replied.

“It’s a context-dependent decision, that’s your testimony today, calling for the genocide of Jews is depending upon the context? That is not bullying or harassment? This is the easiest question to answer. ‘Yes,’ Ms. Magill.”

“If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment,” she replied.

“Conduct, meaning committing the act of genocide? Speech is not harassment? I’m going to give you one more opportunity for the world to see your answer,” Stefanik said and repeated her question.

Magill, who smiled throughout her answers, said, “It can be harassment.”

In response to public backlash over her testimony, Penn posted a video of Dr. Magill Wednesday evening attempting to clarify her remarks.

“In that moment, I was focused on our university’s long-standing policies aligned with the U.S. Constitution which say that speech alone is not punishable,” she said. “I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call of genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate … In my view, it would be harassment or intimidation.”

Rep. Stefanik then asked Harvard President Dr. Claudine Gay the same question, who replied, “It can be, depending on the context.”

“What’s the context?” Stefanik asked.

“Targeted at an individual,” she replied.

“It’s targeted at Jewish students, Jewish individuals,” Stefanik said. “Do you understand your testimony is dehumanizing them? Do you understand that dehumanizing them is part of antisemitism?

“I will ask you one more time. Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment, yes or no?”

“Antisemitic rhetoric when it crosses into conduct, harassment, intimidation, that is actionable conduct, and we do take action,” Gay said.

“So the answer is yes,” Stefanik said, to which Gay replied, “It depends on the context.”

Stefanik said, “It does not depend on the context, and this is why you should resign.”

They also discussed Harvard students protesting this year, chanting, “There is only one solution, intifada revolution,” calling for the destruction of Israel.

Even though that speech is abhorrent to her, Gay said, “We embrace a commitment to free expression and give a wide birth to free expression. It’s when that speech crosses over into conduct that violates our policies.”

“Does that speech not cross that barrier?” Stefanik asked, “Calling for the genocide of Jews and elimination of Israel?”

Gay repeated her commitment to free speech and Harvard’s “robust” policy regarding harassment. Stefanik asked her what actions had been taken against students calling for the genocide of Jews. Gay said she would not comment due to student privacy laws.

Wow.Harvard, UPenn, MIT presidents would not give a straight answer to @RepStefanik‘s question on whether calling for the genocide of Jews constitutes bullying and harassment against Jewish students. pic.twitter.com/wPJaVGw2eK— House Committee on Education & the Workforce (@EdWorkforceCmte) December 5, 2023

In her opening remarks, committee chairwoman U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., asked two questions to the presidents: “Do you have the courage to truly confront and condemn the ideology driving antisemitism? Or will you offer weak, blame-shifting excuses and yet another responsibility-dodging task force?”

“They chose option two,” she said in a statement published after the hearing. “Each came prepared with nearly identical, canned remarks. Each condemned antisemitism” but also equated it to “less pervasive anti-Palestinian sentiments” and pledged to “establish do-nothing task forces.”

“None recognized their campuses as hotbeds of antisemitism. None gave concrete examples of student punishments for violating campus anti-violence codes. Above all, none recognized the direct causal link between campus Left wing ideologies and antisemitism.”

The hearing was held after violent and anti-Jewish incidents occurred on these and other college campuses, reported in multiple news outlets and videos of incidents posted on social media.

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