Lawmakers Call for Immediate Removal of University Presidents
Seventy-four House members, representing both political parties, have come together to demand immediate action from three major universities in response to their presidents' recent statements concerning the genocide of Jewish people.
In a letter addressed to the governing boards of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), the members of Congress express deep concern and disappointment over the responses given by the institutions' presidents during a congressional hearing on Tuesday.
During the hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik asked the presidents if calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their university's policies. The responses from UPenn President Liz Magill, Harvard President Claudine Gay, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth were met with shock and condemnation by the House members.
"If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment. Yes," Magill responded, later adding, "It is a context-dependent decision." Similarly, Gay responded that it would depend on the context, while Kornbluth stated that it would only be considered harassment if it specifically targeted individuals and was pervasive and severe.
In their letter, the House members make it clear that there is no acceptable context for calls for genocide, and that the presidents' failure to unequivocally condemn such rhetoric is deeply concerning. They state, "It stands in stark contrast to the principles we expect leaders of top academic institutions to uphold," and add that it is hard to imagine Jewish and Israeli students, faculty, or staff feeling safe on these campuses.
The letter goes on to call for the immediate removal of Magill, Gay, and Kornbluth from their positions and for the governing boards to provide a plan to ensure the safety of Jewish and Israeli individuals on campus. The House members assert that anything less would be seen as an endorsement of the presidents' statements and an act of complicity in anti-Semitic views.
Magill and Gay have since walked back their comments, with Magill issuing an apology in a video statement and Gay apologizing in an interview with The Harvard Crimson.
In response to the letter and the controversy surrounding the presidents' statements, MIT released a statement affirming their rejection of all forms of anti-Semitism and expressing their full support for President Sally Kornbluth.
"MIT and our president, Sally Kornbluth, reject anti-Semitism in all its forms," the statement reads. "The MIT Corporation chose Sally to be our president for her outstanding academic leadership, her judgment, her integrity, her moral compass, and her ability to unite our community around MIT’s core values. She has done excellent work in leading our community, including in addressing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, which we reject utterly at MIT. She has our full and unreserved support."
In conclusion, the letter and ongoing discussions surrounding the presidents' statements serve as a reminder of the importance of leaders, particularly those in positions of power and influence, to condemn hate and bigotry in all its forms. The House members' call to action sends a strong message to universities and leaders across the country that there is no room for discrimination and hate on college campuses, and that they must take swift and decisive action to ensure the safety and well-being of all students, faculty, and staff.