"Is calling for the genocide of Jews against the universities’ respective codes of conduct?" - This question posed by Rep. Elise Stefanik underscores the crux of the debate.
"Is calling for the genocide of Jews against the universities’ respective codes of conduct?" This direct inquiry by Rep. Elise Stefanik during a pivotal congressional hearing titled "Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism" brings into sharp focus the troubling stance of Ivy League universities regarding antisemitism. The response from presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania reveals a deeply concerning perspective on what should be a clear moral issue.
When Penn President Liz Magill termed the decision as “context-dependent,” it raised alarm. This response implies a dangerous relativism when addressing the call for genocide, an act universally acknowledged as evil. The notion that there could be any context in which advocating for genocide is anything less than abhorrent is deeply troubling and indicative of a significant moral failing in our academic institutions.
Harvard President Claudine Gay's remark, "When speech crosses into conduct, we take action," and MIT President Sally Kornbluth's position that such language would be "investigated as harassment if pervasive and severe," while seemingly reasonable, fail to address the core issue. The reluctance to outright condemn calls for genocide, regardless of its form as speech or conduct, reflects a concerning hesitancy to stand firmly against antisemitism.
The hearing underscores the critical issue of campus safety for Jewish and Israeli students, especially in light of the rise in antisemitism following the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Although the university presidents acknowledged the seriousness of antisemitism, their statements during the hearing do not inspire confidence in their commitment to effectively combating it.
The challenge of defining antisemitic and anti-Israel speech that warrants formal discipline remains. However, when it comes to calls for genocide, the line should be clear and unambiguous. There is no context in which such calls are acceptable, and the failure to acknowledge this is a glaring oversight that must be addressed.
In conclusion, this hearing should serve as a wake-up call. The moral compass of our leading educational institutions appears to be in dire need of recalibration. When it comes to antisemitism and calls for violence, the stance should be unequivocal: there is no room for context-dependent reasoning. As we say, "Never Again," we must mean it — in every context, without exception.