Harvard University, one of the nation’s most prestigious Ivy League schools, is facing backlash from the local campus Jewish organization after the university’s president, Claudine Gay, refused to denounce calls for the genocide of Jews as a breach of the university’s code of conduct.
During her testimony in Congress on Thursday, Gay was questioned by Representative Elise Stefanik of New York about Harvard’s policies on bullying and harassment, specifically in regards to threatening antisemitic speech. In response, Gay stated that whether or not speech qualifies as harassment “depends on the context.”
This sparked outrage from Harvard Hillel, the campus Jewish organization, which released a statement saying that Gay’s “refusal” to “draw a line” around threatening antisemitic speech is “profoundly shocking.” The organization also questioned Gay’s ability to protect Jewish students on campus.
In their statement, Harvard Hillel expressed their disappointment and called on Gay to take action against those who use threatening speech that violates community standards. They also referred to recent incidents on campus, such as chants calling to “globalize the intifada” and “from the river to the sea,” which are seen as endorsing violence and eliminating Jews’ right to self-determination in Israel.
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Harvard Hillel President Jacob Miller also criticized Gay’s weak response, stating that “tackling campus antisemitism will take head-on resolve, not the weak equivocation that was on display today.”
This is not the first time Harvard has faced criticism for their handling of antisemitism on campus. Following a terrorist attack against Israel in October, Gay released a video message denouncing the attack but also stating that the university does not “punish or sanction” people for expressing polarizing views.
The statement caused controversy and led to further criticism from pro-Palestinian student groups. In response, Gay clarified that this does not mean that the university endorses those views.
As one of the top universities in the world, Harvard is known for its diverse student population and commitment to academic freedom. However, this recent controversy has raised questions about the university’s ability to protect its students from hate speech and discrimination.
In light of these concerns, the president of Harvard Hillel, along with many others, is calling on Gay to take action and address the issue of antisemitism on campus. It remains to be seen how the university will respond, but many are hoping for a strong and clear stance against hate speech and discrimination.