Although she gave it the ol’ college try (pun intended), Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who represents New York’s 21st district, repeatedly did her best to get three heads of prestigious universities to acknowledge that calling for the genocide of Jews is against their institutions’ codes of conduct. This event took place at a congressional hearing on Dec. 5 at the U.S. Capitol.
As if coached together, all three women came up with the same talking point – “depending on the context and whether or not it was directed at an individual,” would be against the code of conduct per Harvard President Claudine Gay, MIT President Sally Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill. No one strayed from the rehearsed definition or was willing to personally opine, so they chose to stay within the safe confines of a narrowly-parsed, scripted narrative which was intended to act as an across-the-board policy of the finest American universities.
Ironically, “University presidents agree that antisemitism is an issue on campuses, growing more severe since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the start of Israel’s war against the terror group in the Gaza Strip.”
MIT President, Kornbluth, herself admitted that she “knew of some Israeli and Jewish students who feel unsafe on campus,” so if that’s true, why would she be reluctant to acknowledge that individual students internalize the chants and threats which, even if expressed towards the corporate body of Jews, are also directed at those who share this ethnic bloodline and are also part of the campus community? Yet, this was the line that would not be crossed by any of these college presidents who refused to admit the obvious.
Increasingly frustrated by their robotic and unfeeling responses, Stefanik refused to let these women skirt her yes or no question as, each time, they attempted to pontificate and avoid the central issue of students’ real concerns over their safety, not to mention the antagonistic and hateful atmosphere which has invaded their campuses, creating a hostile environment which is antithetical to learning and expanding one’s mind.
One way the MIT president got around the issue, when asked if calling for the genocide of Jews was against the university’s code of conduct, was to say that she had personally not heard of such calls on her campus grounds. When further pressed by the congresswoman, as to whether chants for intifada constituted the same threat as genocide, she responded that she had, indeed, heard chants which could be construed as antisemitic when calling for the elimination of the Jewish people. However, she stated that such a case would only be investigated if it was deemed to be “harassment and severe.”
Calling out the flagrant anti-Jewish threats, which are regularly shouted at campus protests, as nothing more than bullying and harassment, Stefanik noted that there was nothing difficult about defining calls for genocide as meeting that criterion. But it still didn’t move the needle, because in the minds of these three female university heads, it is only “when speech crosses into conduct” that some investigative action would be taken.
If that is the case, however, the legal definition of hate speech which is described as “abusive or threatening speech that expresses prejudice on the basis of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or similar grounds” would not be applicable under the standards of these institutions, per their representatives.
Consequently, there would be no punitive measures for hate speech, which, although protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of expression, is, nonetheless, in direct opposition to the type of atmosphere which a university is obligated to provide.
According to UW Milwaukee, their guidelines and responsibilities state that “Universities have an obligation to create a safe, inclusive learning environment for all members of the campus community. Thus, although hate speech, alone, receives constitutional protection, any expression that constitutes a true threat, incitement to imminent lawless action, discriminatory harassment or defamation can be punished by UWM for those reasons.”
It would seem that the protections of UWM, a far less impressive university, extend further than those of such elite and formidable institutions as MIT, University of Penn and Harvard. Who would have thought?
It is unquestionable that chants such as, “from the river to the sea” or calling for an intifada, literally an uprising or rebellion, would send chills of fear and anxiety to any Jewish student who understands that they are personally being targeted as the enemy who must be forcibly stopped. For these learned women, who have been tasked with running the finest of educational institutions that exist in North America, there is an obvious and clear obfuscation of their moral and ethical responsibility towards today’s Jewish young people who are now feeling endangered in a place they call home, since many live on campus, as well.
For this not to be taken seriously and confronted with the highest level of obligation is not only a dereliction of duty but it is also a grave disregard of moral standards and principles which have been callously pushed aside in favor of progressive policy that favors the elevation of “preferred victims,” while permitting the oppression and persecution of those who are deemed to be strong and privileged.
Such obvious indifference, directed solely at the Jewish race, however, may result in punitive measures, which these universities didn’t have the backbone to enact, and that may very well come in the form of the cold cash which they receive through endowments. According to one report, “Influential donors to Harvard and University of Penn say they will cut their ties to the schools in protest of college administrators’ response to alleged anti-Israel speech and antisemitism on campuses in the wake of Hamas’ terror attacks.”
Furthermore, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has stated that “federally funded schools are obligated to protect Jews and other minorities,” stating that “American colleges could lose federal funding if they fail to address antisemitism and other bigotries following up on a meeting last month with Jewish leaders alarmed by rising antisemitism on campus in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.”
As the old saying goes, “Money talks,” and it could be that dollars trump Woke policy, but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, it must be recognized that Jewish students are feeling imperiled, vulnerable and threatened, both as individuals and as a group. For heads of universities not to understand such a basic concept as justified fear in the heightened angry environment which they oversee, is to truly be ignorant and uneducated in the simplest of facts. Such willful and wanton indifference for the safety of Jewish students confirms Congresswoman Stefanik’s conclusion, that these women should, indeed, resign from their positions.
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.