During a hearing this week on the rise in antisemitism on college campuses, Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., said a lack of ideological diversity contributed to the hateful educational environment endured by Jewish students since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel by Hamas. 

He’s right. 

A recent poll found that 73% of Jewish college students and about 44% of non-Jewish students have experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the beginning of the 2023-24 school year. 

“Since Oct. 7, students who have felt comfortable with others knowing they’re Jewish decreased significantly,” according to the poll results released jointly by the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish outreach organization Hillel International.  

The poll found that, before Oct. 7, 63.7% of Jewish students surveyed said they “felt ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ comfortable, but now only 38.6% feel the same.” 

Among those testifying Tuesday before the House Education and Workforce Committee was University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, who finds herself under increasing fire from critics. Penn is one of the Ivy League schools at the center of controversy over free speech on college campuses amid the troubling increase in antisemitism, especially since Hamas’ terrorist attacks in Israel.  

Previously, the existence of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives at Penn and on other college campuses made it look like universities actively promote safe environments for minority groups such as Jews.  

Magill’s DEI statement on the University of Pennsylvania’s website, for example, reads: “Penn is a place with deep-seated values that reflect respect for all and a sincere commitment to service, to diversity in all its forms, and to creating conditions where all can thrive so we can as a Penn community have our greatest impact on the world.” 


But antisemitic speech isn’t respectful of “diversity in all its forms,” nor does speech advocating genocide promote a safe environment for Jewish students

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-N.Y., pressed Magill at the hearing on whether “calling for the genocide of Jews violates Penn’s code of conduct when it comes to bullying and harassment.” 

“If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment,” Magill said, adding later: “It is a context-dependent decision, Congresswoman.” 

Stefanik told Magill that it was the easiest yes-or-no question to answer. But Magill didn’t say “yes.” 

Liz Magill frowns at the camera
University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill listens during her testimony Tuesday before the House Education and Workforce Committee. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Following backlash for her testimony, on Thursday morning Magill posted a video statement on X stating her intention to clarify and evaluate campus policies on free speech. She didn’t apologize. 

Penn donor Ross Stevens, founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, later withdrew a $100 million donation to protest the university’s stance on antisemitism on campus and Magill’s congressional testimony, Fox Business reported

[Magill, who had led Penn since July 2022, stepped down Saturday amid building criticism, but will remain a tenured law professor there, The Associated Press reported. Scott Bok, chairman of Penn’s board of trustees and a Magill supporter, resigned hours later, AP reported.]

“In what world is a call for violence against Jews protected speech, but a belief that sex is biological and binary isn’t?” Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., asked Harvard President Claudine Gay during the hearing.  

Walberg was referring to the fit thrown by Harvard’s diversity administrators after an evolutionary biologist stated on Fox News that there are only two sexes. Gay didn’t answer his question. 

Double Standard

At the University of Pennsylvania, a clear double standard exists for protecting free speech, alumnus Arjunan Gnanendran told The Daily Signal.

Gnanendran said he spoke in support of a law professor, Amy Wax, during her examination by Penn’s Faculty Senate for allegedly creating a hostile environment in her class, “Conservative Political & Legal Thought,” by the way she talked about affirmative action in a podcast interview.

“They’re defending the right of the pro-Palestine students to say things like ‘From the river to the sea’ and call for the genocide of Israelis,” Gnanendran said of university administrators.  

“That’s free speech, [but] it’s not, you know, creating a hostile environment for Jewish students?” he argued. 

“But then at the same time, they’re saying when Professor Wax talks about racial preferences in affirmative action, that creates a hostile environment for students of color and she should be stripped of tenure,” Gnanendran said. “So, there’s no free speech for Professor Wax, but there’s free speech for the pro-Palestine people who are harassing Jewish students.” 

Like others interviewed for this article, Gnanendran is a fellow member of The Heritage Foundation’s internship program, called the Young Leaders Program. Their stories illustrate the existence of the ideological echo chambers at today’s colleges and universities. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.) 

Antisemitism on campus is another form of cancel culture from the ideological echo chambers entrenched at today’s colleges and universities, something Grothman alluded to during the House hearing. 

For many young conservatives on-campus intimidation for their beliefs can come from all angles: peers, professors, and administrators. It’s no wonder that a new unifying issue for the Left, the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists, could result in hateful speech and behavior toward Jewish students. It already was happening to conservatives

When some speech is protected and other speech is not, colleges become echo chambers for left-leaning ideology, where “there are things that you are prohibited from speaking about,” Austin Gae said in an interview about the culture on his campus. 

Cancel culture “is anything that represses free speech and open debate” and often is characterized by disrespect, said Gae, a senior at The George Washington University in the nation’s capital

Indeed, cyberbullying, classroom censure, false narratives, administrative neglect, and social blacklists are all methods used on campus to discourage ideological diversity. 

Peer-Pressured Into Silence 

Gae said he became the target of cyberbullying in a class group chat after saying that then-President Donald Trump didn’t incite an “insurrection” by asking supporters at a rally near the White House to “peacefully and patriotically make their voices heard” at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

People who had never met him labeled him a racist homophobe during his freshman year at GWU for something that had nothing to do with race or sexuality, Gae said. The experience prompted him to go silent on his political beliefs for the remainder of his education. 

“After that, I decided to not really talk to anyone on campus,” Gae said.  

Unless a person can first get to know someone else, and share that he is “a kind, real person with manners and stuff like that,” he said, it’s hard to feel comfortable talking about politics on any level. 

For Erin Leone, a junior at GWU, not even a history course on President Ronald Reagan was a safe space for conservative thought.  

Reagan’s famous 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing,” was the subject of study for one lecture in which the professor filtered his analysis through a lens that saw the future president’s speech was “divisive and racist,” Leone said in an interview.  

When she asked the professor for specific examples of racially divisive language in the speech, instead of answering the question, the professor called on three outspoken, left-leaning classmates to explain how Reagan’s words made others “afraid of black people,” Leone told The Daily Signal. 

“Does that answer your question?” the professor asked Leone after her three peers finished yelling at her, she recalled. 

False Narratives 

In another one of Leone’s history classes, she said, a professor claimed that Catholic missionaries in Mexico “made up the Our Lady of Guadalupe apparitions to trick the Mexicans into converting to Catholicism.”  

Afterward, Leone approached the professor with concerns that the remarks were racist toward Mexican culture and openly anti-Catholic. The professor, she said, later denied making the remarks. 

“If a professor said that about Islam or Judaism, they should be fired,” Leone contended. 

In another situation at Penn, the student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian neglected to follow journalism ethics and reported allegations as fact to push a narrative that fraternities are places that harbor racism and should be removed from campus.  

The student newspaper claimed that a person of color was assaulted by a Penn student, Nicholas Hamilton, at a fraternity party.  

Hamilton had to go to court over the allegations and was found not guilty of assault in Philadelphia Municipal Court, the newspaper reported.  

Administrative Neglect 

At Nicholls State University in Louisiana, the Student Organizations and Activities Office neglected to process paperwork establishing a College Republicans chapter, former student Cooper Moore told The Daily Signal. 

This occurred despite the university’s having a chapter of College Democrats as well as a Democratic Socialist Club, Moore said. 

Moore served as vice president of College Republicans for the brief period the club was permitted to host activities on campus at Nicholls State. That ended, he said, when College Republicans’ “chalking campaign” during the 2020 presidential campaign resulted in a riot in which leftists called for his death and the banning of the club from campus.  

On the campus quad, College Republicans chalked slogans such as “MAGA,” “Vote Trump,” and “Vote #1,” this last a reference to a pro-life amendment on the state ballot at that time, Moore said.  

“None of it was bigoted,” he said. “None of it was derogatory toward the Democrats or Joe Biden or to liberal students.” 

Yet the College Republicans’ chalk was washed away with mops and buckets by some of his peers, and the university hosted a town hall to discuss free speech on campus. In that forum, Nicholls State President Jay Clune neglected to take a clear stance on free speech, Moore said.  

Nicholls State implemented a policy prohibiting “political chalk” on campus, he said, although Democrat-affiliated clubs had been doing so with no push-back from administrators. 

The next day, Moore said, he had to be escorted from class by campus security because participants in a Black Lives Matter rally were yelling his name.  

The university didn’t follow up to ask about his safety or mental health, Moore said. The only thing the school reached out about, he said, was to say that the College Republicans club was barred from campus because the necessary paperwork hadn’t been filed. 

But the club did file the paperwork and the school’s Activities Office was at fault for it not being processed, Moore said. 

Free Speech at Stake

While she was at GWU, Leone said, two members of a Greek organization were shunned by their sorority sisters after someone found Instagram photos of them taken at a College Republicans event. 

“Nobody would be friends with them anymore,” Leone said of the two students, as if they were socially blacklisted for being conservative. 

It’s the same in other student organizations, she said.  

“The rhetoric in the groups is that, if someone were to not agree with [liberal ideas], they’d be a horrible person,” Leone said.  

The Left has created a hostile environment on campus for those of any color, race, or creed who dissent from its Orwellian groupthink. 

Since college and university administrators continue to discourage ideological diversity on campus, speech encouraging acts of genocide should come as no surprise. 

Unless free speech, including dissent from the Left’s doctrines, is encouraged on campuses, our educational institutions will continue to embolden hostility that endangers those with a different view who speak out. 

This commentary was updated Dec. 11 to reflect Liz Magill’s resignation. It also was modified within two hours of publication to clarify that Amy Wax was criticized for something she said during a podcast, not in class.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation. 

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