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Business News/ News / World/  US lawmakers seeks removal of Harvard, Penn, MIT presidents as Israel-Hamas war divides campus
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US lawmakers seeks removal of Harvard, Penn, MIT presidents as Israel-Hamas war divides campus

Harvard University's Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania's Liz Magill, and Sally Kornbluth from MIT, faced criticism for their responses during a five-hour congressional hearing on antisemitism

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., speaks during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, (AP)Premium
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., speaks during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, (AP)

The presidents of United States' high-profile educational institutions Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found themselves under fire after their alleged elusive testimony before a House Committee. US lawmakers had questioned them about antisemitism and offered narrow legal responses to questions over whether calling for the genocide of Jews was against school policy.

The incident comes amid an ongoing aggravated war between Benjamin Netanyahu's Israel, and Hamas fighters from Palestine's Gaza. The war that aggravated after Hamas fighters attacked Israel on 7 October, has entered its third month, killing over 16,000 Palestinians, displacing millions. 

On Tuesday, Harvard University's Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania's Liz Magill, and Sally Kornbluth from MIT, faced criticism for their responses during a five-hour congressional hearing.

Now Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, and Jared Moskowitz, a Florida Democrat, have joined 72 other lawmakers in demanding the dismissal of these three presidents. 

The House Education and the Workforce Committee held the hearing on Tuesday to scrutinize antisemitism in the aftermath of the 7 October Hamas assault on Israel and the ensuing Israeli invasion of Gaza. Harvard’s Claudine Gay, Penn’s Liz Magill and MIT’s Sally Kornbluth appeared before the panel.

US Congress vs US Universities: Anti-Semitism

Elise Stefanik, a Harvard University graduate, questioned the presidents about whether “calling for the genocide of Jews" violates their code of conduct or constitutes bullying or harassment.

Magill responded that “it is a context-dependent decision" that could be considered harassment “if the speech becomes conduct." Gay also said it depended on the context, such as being “targeted at an individual." Kornbluth said it would be “investigated as harassment if pervasive and severe."

Gay and Magill were lambasted over their responses and later tried to clarify their remarks.

Antisemitism has been allowed to fester on college campuses for years, and in the wake of the 7 October attack, the world is witnessing the consequences," the representatives wrote. “This is a clear result of the failure of university leadership."

How the Universities reacted?

In a statement, MIT expressed its “full and unreserved" support for Kornbluth, adding that she has “done excellent work in leading our community, including in addressing antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, which we reject utterly at MIT." 

Harvard and Penn didn’t have any immediate comment, reports Bloomberg

Harvard University Presidents apologises

Harvard president Claudine Gay has publicly apologised for her response during the congressional hearing on antisemitism. When asked about whether calls for "genocide" against Jews would violate Harvard's code of conduct, she did not provide a direct answer, stating that it depended on the "context."

“I am sorry," Claudine Gay said in an interview published in The Harvard Crimson . “When words amplify distress and pain, I don't know how you could feel anything but regret."

Claudine Gay added that she should have, in that moment, returned to the guiding truth, that calls for violence against Jewish community have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged. “Substantively, I failed to convey what is my truth".

 

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Published: 09 Dec 2023, 04:09 PM IST
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