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House Approves Resolution Condemning College Antisemitism Testimony, With Democrats Divided

The House approved a resolution Wednesday condemning testimony from a trio of elite university presidents at a hearing last week, during which the administrators declined to say that calls for the genocide of Jewish individuals would violate their schools’ policies. 

The chamber cleared the resolution in a 303-126-3 vote, formally rebuking the comments from Harvard University President Claudine Gay, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) President Sally Kornbluth and the now former president of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Liz Magill, which have caused a stir across the country — and sparked Magill’s ouster. 

Wednesday’s vote fractured Democrats, with some opposing the resolution — despite denouncing the testimony — because they felt it was an overreach for Congress to get involved with hiring in higher education. Eighty-four Democrats supported the legislation, while 125 opposed it and three voted “present.”

During a hearing last week before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, when asked if a call to genocide Jewish individuals would be considered harassment on their campuses, the presidents of the three top-tier schools said their answers would depend on the context of the situation. 

The resolution — led by House GOP conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), who questioned the presidents on calls for genocide — said the three administrators “were evasive and dismissive” in their responses, “failing to simply condemn such action.” 

“This is not a partisan issue but a question of moral clarity,” Stefanik said in a statement when the resolution was proposed. “Which is why our colleagues from across the aisle have come together with us to introduce a resolution condemning antisemitism on university campuses as well as the morally bankrupt testimonies of the University Presidents from Harvard, Penn, and MIT during last week’s House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing.” 

The legislation also condemned the rise of antisemitism on university campuses across the country, the latest measure denouncing the increase in antisemitism since Hamas launched its attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Last month, the chamber cleared a resolution condemning the support of Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations at higher education institutions. 

The House has also considered other Israel-related legislation in the wake of the Oct. 7. Some of those votes put a spotlight on the deep divisions within the Democratic caucus when it comes to the matter of Israel policy, which has pitted Israel’s strongest allies against pro-Palestinian liberals who have accused Israeli leaders of human rights abuses and war crimes in Gaza.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), a prominent Jewish Democrat, announced shortly before Wednesday’s vote that he would vote against the legislation “in part, because it represents a gross overreach.” He also slammed the “cynicism” of the measure because it “exploits real fear about antisemitism.” 

“Congress should not meddle in the hiring and firing of college presidents. But mostly, I’m voting against this resolution because the cynicism of it makes me sick,” Nadler said in a statement. 

“MAGA Republicans have spent years undermining American’s colleges and universities —attacking these schools for their efforts at diversity and inclusion, for their support of the LGBTQ+ community, and for teaching the history of the United States in a way that does not fit their preferred narrative. Today’s resolution exploits real fear about antisemitism in America to advance that extreme agenda,” he continued. 

Nadler also took aim at Stefanik, writing that she “remains a stalwart supporter of Donald Trump, who continues to associate himself with white nationalists, and has herself trafficked in the so-called ‘great replacement’ theory, which is racist and antisemitic to its core.” 

Stefanik had been accused of subtly parroting tenets of the great replacement theory through Facebook ads in September 2021 that said Democrats were planning a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION” with the plan to provide amnesty to undocumented immigrants for electoral purposes. 

“If these Republicans really cared about antisemitism, they would help us do something about it. Instead, they hide behind the cheapest of words,” he added. 

That criticism is similar to one that Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), another prominent Jewish Democrat, lobbed at Stefanik earlier this week. Stefanik responded to Raskin in a lengthy post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, this week, writing in part, “President Trump was the best friend Jewish people have had in the White House in modern times.” 

A significant number of Democrats, however, supported the resolution Wednesday. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), a co-sponsor of the measure, said the university presidents “failed the test, and just like their students there are no makeups.”

“These are Ivy League university presidents that were asked a softball question: ‘Does calling for the genocide of Jews count as harassment under their school’s policies?’ That’s not a trick question, and it’s infuriating that these leaders of young people would try to equivocate with some nonsense about ‘it depends on the context,’” he wrote in a statement. “Sub out Jews for any other persecuted minority group and they would never have given that answer.”

The hearing exchange, which has since gone viral, is reverberating across the country.

Magill, who had been president of UPenn since July 2022, resigned from her post days after the testimony. Additionally, the school lost a major $100 million donation amid fallout from the hearing. 

The resolution suggests that the presidents of Harvard and MIT should “follow suit” and resign, though it does not explicitly call for it. 

The boards at both schools, however, have released statements backing their leadership and refusing to fire the presidents.   

“As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University,” the Harvard board said. “Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing.” 

The fallout is being felt on Capitol Hill as well: House Education Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) launched an investigation into the three universities last week, calling the testimony from the trio of presidents “absolutely unacceptable.”

Source : The Hill