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UPenn, Harvard presidents clarify antisemitism testimony after fallout

Dec 08, 2023

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Does calling for the genocide of the Jewish people violate school policy? That was one of the questions asked of Ivy League university presidents on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Dec. 5.

Some of the presidents’ answers have led to protests, calls for their removal, and the withdrawal of millions of dollars in donations and funding to their universities. They have also sparked a new investigation from the House of Representatives.

Leaders at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania have since walked back some of their testimonies on campus antisemitism.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., asked Liz Magill, president of the University of Pennsylvania, whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” violates the university’s code of conduct.

“In that moment, I was focused on our university’s longstanding policies aligned with the Constitution that say speech alone is not punishable,” Magill replied.

In the fallout from that conversation, one major donor has threatened to pull roughly $100 million in funding from the University of Pennsylvania.

Harvard University President Claudine Gay apologized after she gave similar testimony, where she said that a student’s free speech which calls for genocide is against school policy “if it turns into student conduct.”

“We embrace a commitment to free expression, even of views that are objectionable, offensive, hateful,” Gay said. “It’s when that speech crosses into conduct that violates our policies against bullying.”

Gay later clarified that “calls for violence against our Jewish community have no place at Harvard.”

Rabbi David Wolpe resigned from Harvard’s antisemitism advisory board, citing “events on campus” and “painfully inadequate testimony.”

“It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson. “Any statements that advocate for the systematic murder of Jews are dangerous and revolting — and we should all stand firmly against them, on the side of human dignity and the most basic values that unite us as Americans.”

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[Karah Rucker]

DOES CALLING FOR THE GENOCIDE OF JEWS VIOLATE SCHOOL POLICY?

IT’S A QUESTION ASKED TO IVY LEAGUE SCHOOL PRESIDENTS ON CAPITOL HILL THIS WEEK –

AND THEIR ANSWERS HAVE LED TO PROTESTS, CALLS FOR THEIR REMOVAL, THE WITHDRAWAL OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN DONATIONS, AND SPARKED A NEW HOUSE INVESTIGATION.

THE HEADS OF U-PENN AND HARVARD ARE NOW BACKTRACKING THEIR TESTIMONY ON ANTI-SEMITISM ON THEIR CAMPUSES.

WE’LL START WITH U-PENN.

IN THE FOLLOWING CLIP –

WE’LL SHOW YOU PRESIDENT LIZ MAGILL’S VIDEO MESSAGE CLARIFYING HER REMARKS, WITH HER ACTUAL TESTIMONY, TO GIVE YOU A CLEAR PICTURE OF THE CONTROVERSY.

TAKE A LISTEN.

[Elizabeth MaGill]

There was a moment during yesterday’s congressional hearing on antisemitism when I was asked if the call for genocide of jewish people on campus would violate our policies.

[Elise Stefanik]

Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate penn’s rules or code of conduct? Yes or no?

[Elizabeth MaGill]

If the speech turns into conduct it can be harassment.

[Elise Stefanik]

So is your testimony that you will not answer yes? If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment, yes. Conduct meaning commit the act of genocide?

[Elizabeth MaGill]

In that moment, I was focused on our university’s longstanding policies aligned with the constitution that say speech alone is not punishable.

[Elise Stefanik]

This is unacceptable, miss Magill. I’m going to give you one more opportunity for the world to see your answer. Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate penn’s code of conduct when it comes to bullying and harrassment, yes or no? It can be harrassment. The answer is yes.

[Elizabeth MaGill]

I want to be clear. A call for genocide of jewish people is threatening, deeply so.

In my view, it would be harassment or intimidation.

[Karah Rucker]

IT WAS THAT TESTIMONY EXCHANGE THAT HAS LED TO CALLS FOR HER RESIGNATION BOTH FROM STUDENTS, STATE OFFICIALS, AND BIG DONORS, ONE THREATENING TO PULL ABOUT 100 MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF FUNDS AS FALLOUT AT PENN CONTINUES.

MEANWHILE, AT HARVARD, PRESIDENT CLAUDINE GAY HAS APOLOGIZED FOR HER TESTIMONY — WHICH SHARED A SIMILAR SENTIMENT AS MAGILL’S – THE CALL FOR GENOCIDE OF JEWS IS AGAINST SCHOOL POLICY IF IT TURNS INTO STUDENT CONDUCT.

[Elise Stefanik]

Can you not say here it is against the code of conduct at Harvard?

[CLAUDINE GAY]

“We embrace a commitment to free expression, even of views that are objectionable, offensive, hateful. It’s when that speech crosses into conduct that violates our policies against bullying.”

[Karah Rucker]

FOLLOWING HER TESTIMONY – IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE STUDENT NEWSPAPER – HARVARD’S PRESIDENT TOLD THE CRIMSON “I AM SORRY.”

“WORDS MATTER.”

AND SHE “GOT CAUGHT UP IN WHAT HAD BECOME A COMBATIVE EXCHANGE ABOUT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES.”

SHE SAYS “CALLS FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST OUR JEWISH COMMUNITY HAVE NO PLACE AT HARVARD.”

DAMAGE FROM GAY’S TESTIMONY WAS ALREADY DONE.

RABBI DAVID WOLPE RESIGNED FROM HARVARD’S ANTI-SEMITISM ADVISORY BOARD, CITING “EVENTS ON CAMPUS” AND “THE PAINFULLY INADEQUATE TESTIMONY”.

IN RESPONSE TO THE IVY LEAGUE SCHOOLS’ FAILURE TO DIRECTLY CONDEMN CALLS FOR GENOCIDE AS A VIOLATION OF SCHOOL POLICY –

A WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON SAID “IT’S UNBELIEVABLE THAT THIS NEEDS TO BE SAID: CALLS FOR GENOCIDE ARE MONSTROUS. ANY STATEMENTS THAT ADVOCATE FOR THE SYSTEMATIC MURDER OF JEWS ARE DANGEROUS. WE SHOULD ALL STAND FIRMLY AGAINST THEM.”