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House panel probes Harvard, MIT, UPenn amid antisemitism fight

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 05: (L-R) Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, Liz Magill, President of University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Pamela Nadell, Professor of History and Jewish Studies at American University, and Dr. Sally Kornbluth, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. The Committee held a hearing to investigate antisemitism on college campuses. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The House Education Committee launched a probe into Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania after their leaders struggled to explain whether they would discipline student protestors calling for the genocide of Jews.

Harvard President Claudine Gay, UPenn President Liz Magill, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth spoke before the committee on Tuesday. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., asked each of them whether these kinds of remarks on campus are violations of school rules. All three presidents appeared to struggle to answer the question, with each leader saying such comments could be deemed harassment on their campuses.

“The testimony we received earlier this week from Presidents Gay, Magill and Kornbluth about the responses of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT to the rampant antisemitism displayed on their campuses by students and faculty was absolutely unacceptable,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the committee, said in a statement Thursday.

“This investigation will include substantial document requests, and the Committee will not hesitate to utilize compulsory measures including subpoenas if a full response is not immediately forthcoming,” Foxx added.

The probe comes as the institutions face criticism from alumni and major donors for not doing enough to protect Jewish students.

The public outcry has coincided with Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip following Palestianian militant group Hamas’ terrorist attacks Oct. 7 in Israel. Hamas, which wants the destruction of Israel, killed more than 1,200 in the country, while taking hundreds hostage. Since then, Israel has bombarbed Gaza, killing thousands as the nation seeks to wipe out Hamas.

After the university presidents testified, business leaders took to social media to put more pressure on the schools. The testimony also led to the resignation of a member of Harvard’s antisemitism advisory committee.

Hedge fund chief Bill Ackman, a graduate of Harvard and a past university donor, said in a post on X that the answers they gave “reflect the profound moral bankruptcy of Presidents Gay, Magill and Kornbluth.”

Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, said on his own social media page that he was “ashamed” of the university chiefs after their testimony.

“The 3 Presidents were offered numerous opportunities to condemn racist, antisemitic, hate rhetoric and refused doing so hiding behind calls for “context,” Bourla said on X.

Apollo CEO Marc Rowan on UPenn op-ed: We are, at Penn, a bastion of 'preferred' speech

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