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Harvard President Apologizes, Pressure Grows for Penn’s President to Step Down Amid Antisemitism Controversy

by Michael Nguyen
3 comments
Antisemitism Controversy Universities

Harvard University’s President, Claudine Gay, issued an apology following a contentious congressional hearing on antisemitism, where her comments were criticized for not adequately condemning violence against Jewish students. This apology comes as the University of Pennsylvania’s President, Liz Magill, faces increasing demands for her resignation over similar issues raised at the hearing.

During an interview with The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper, President Gay expressed regret for her part in the heated dialogue at the House committee hearing, admitting she didn’t strongly denounce threats towards Jewish students.

Concurrently, the University of Pennsylvania is under scrutiny from major donor Ross Stevens, who threatened to retract a $100 million donation due to the university’s perceived weak stance on antisemitism, demanding the replacement of President Magill.

Both Gay’s and Magill’s testimonies at the Republican-led House Education and Workforce Committee hearing have sparked national controversy. Calls for their resignations have come from various quarters, including donors, alumni, and bipartisan members of Congress. This backlash also extends to the MIT president, who testified at the same hearing.

The broader issue of antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses has led to various responses:

  • The federal government initiated investigations into seven schools last month.
  • The University of Michigan launched a new institute focusing on religious inclusion.
  • Other university leaders have also apologized for their remarks during the hearing.

At the hearing, President Gay was questioned about whether advocating for the genocide of Jews would breach university conduct codes. She initially responded that it would depend on the context but later expressed regret in her interview with The Crimson. Gay acknowledged that she should have emphasized that any threats of violence against Jewish students are intolerable at Harvard.

President Magill also revised her statements, considering the call for Jewish genocide as harassment or intimidation. She announced a review of Penn’s policies, acknowledging the need for clearer guidelines beyond the U.S. Constitution.

The testimony of these university presidents was in response to growing concerns about antisemitism on campuses, particularly following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Their responses, however, were met with criticism from various sectors, including the White House, which condemned calls for genocide as fundamentally opposed to American values.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro criticized Magill’s testimony and joined Jewish students at Penn for a Hanukkah menorah lighting, signaling solidarity. The future of President Magill at Penn remains uncertain, with the university’s trustees yet to make a statement.

President Gay’s early tenure at Harvard has been overshadowed by these events. Rabbi David Wolpe resigned from a newly formed committee on antisemitism, citing dissatisfaction with the university’s handling of the issue. Gay thanked Wolpe for his contributions, acknowledging the need to address antisemitism at Harvard more effectively.

The House committee has announced plans to investigate the policies at Harvard, MIT, and Penn, complementing ongoing federal civil rights investigations. These probes follow allegations of inadequate responses to antisemitic incidents on these campuses.

At Penn, criticisms have also arisen regarding the handling of antisemitic acts, like a swastika in the design school and vandalism at the Hillel chapter, predating the Hamas attack on Israel. Stevens’ potential withdrawal of his donation, made through Stone Ridge Holdings Group shares, is contingent upon the university addressing these concerns and potentially appointing a new president.

This report is part of the Big Big News education coverage, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, with the AP bearing full responsibility for the content.

Reported by Levy from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Antisemitism Controversy Universities

Why did Harvard University’s President apologize?

Harvard University’s President Claudine Gay apologized for her remarks during a congressional hearing on antisemitism, which were criticized for not adequately condemning threats of violence against Jewish students.

What controversy surrounds the University of Pennsylvania’s President?

University of Pennsylvania’s President, Liz Magill, is facing calls for resignation due to her testimony at the same congressional hearing, which was deemed insufficient in addressing antisemitism on campus.

What actions have donors taken in response to the universities’ stance on antisemitism?

Major donor Ross Stevens threatened to withdraw a $100 million gift from the University of Pennsylvania due to their stance on antisemitism, demanding the replacement of President Magill.

How has the issue of antisemitism at universities been addressed nationally?

The issue has led to federal investigations into seven schools, and the University of Michigan opened an institute for religious inclusion. Other universities have also been urged to take stronger stances against antisemitism and Islamophobia.

What was the response from the White House and political figures to the university presidents’ testimonies?

The White House and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro criticized the testimonies of the university presidents for not strongly opposing antisemitism. Shapiro also joined Jewish students at Penn for a Hanukkah event to show support.

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3 comments

Reader123 December 10, 2023 - 2:47 pm

Harvard’s prez said sorry for remarks, Penn’s leader’s in hot water. Donors threaten cash, national uproar. Tough times for unis!

Reply
AcademicGuru December 10, 2023 - 8:39 pm

National backlash, hearings gone wrong. Univ. leaders need better responses. Donors, gov’t investigations – turbulent times.

Reply
CampusWatcher December 10, 2023 - 10:11 pm

Donor threat at Penn, prez apologies at Harvard. Antisemitism on campus, spotlight on uni responses. National controversy.

Reply

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