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Harvard President Claudine Gay, left, speaks as University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill listens during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Harvard, UPenn, MIT Presidents Grilled on Capitol Hill About Antisemitism on Campus

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WASHINGTON -- Antisemitism is on the rise in the U.S. and around the world following the Hamas Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel. It has been especially visible on some college and university campuses across the country. 

Ivy League leaders testified before Congress Tuesday as their respective universities are under investigation over complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobic discrimination.

The U.S. Department of Education is probing Harvard and nine other schools in a federal civil rights investigation under Title VI. That law bans discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in institutions that receive federal funding. The schools are currently under investigation for possible discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. Five of the complaints allege antisemitic harassment and two allege anti-Muslim harassment.

According to federal law, schools that violate Title VI can ultimately lose federal funding.

In a hearing on Capitol Hill, university leaders defended their plans to take a stronger stance against hatred. The presidents of MIT, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania answered lawmakers' questions about their schools' responses to an alarming surge in antisemitism on campus.

"I know some Israeli and Jewish students feel unsafe on campus as they bear the horror of the Hamas attacks and the history of antisemitism," Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth said. "We know there is further work to do."

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slider img 2"I wonder if that type of education would've been in place at all of our college campuses before this, whether we would've seen the massive reactions that we've had," Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) said. "It's hard to describe and justify."

Harvard University President Claudine Gay was asked about an ongoing federal civil rights investigation about possible violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She declined to answer due to the current investigation but condemned antisemitism.

"Antisemitism is a symptom of ignorance and the cure for ignorance is knowledge. Harvard must model what it means to preserve free expression while combatting prejudice," Gay said.

The Harvard president said the campus is taking action with a task force to assist students targeted by doxxing attempts and by boosting student counseling sessions.

All three university presidents said they'll also combat xenophobia and all forms of hate.

One antisemitism expert said she's weary of the national complacency, and that it's the third time she had testified about the danger.

"Free speech does not permit harassment, discrimination, bias, threats or violence in any form," Jewish historian Pamela Nadel said.

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