The presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT appeared before a House committee last Tuesday to answer for their shameful inaction in the face of antisemitic rhetoric and attacks on their campuses. Their craven responses were as noncommittal as their handlers obviously wanted, which served only to indict their institutions.
Indeed, the whole nation has watched aghast over the past couple of months, as students have shown themselves to be in a state of moral confusion inculcated by the universities and their DEI departments’ promotion of an “an oppressed v. oppressor” narrative, which identifies terrorists as the oppressed and the women they raped as their oppressors.
The hearing by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce was called to examine what specific steps these three universities had taken following their campuses’ embrace of the Hamas terrorists who invaded Israel and killed 1,200 civilians Oct. 7.
But all of higher education was put on the stand.
Everything from the rot of so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion—or DEI—and the new racial segregation on campus to academia’s rigid, intolerant ideological partisanship and its funding by nefarious foreign entities, was laid bare for the nation to see.
For three institutions that collectively took in around $10 billion in taxpayers’ money in grants and contracts between 2018 and 2022, it was a dereliction of duty. Beneficiaries of government dole in that Olympian magnitude have a responsibility to hold themselves accountable. At the hearing Tuesday, the schools failed miserably.
Harvard President Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth basically stuck to giving name, rank, and serial number. They repeated carefully rehearsed phrases obviously precleared by lawyers and comms teams.
Gay in particular kept restating the same phrases, not even bothering to find different variations.
One formulation she clung to (as though it were a talisman that would save her from the bad men and women that had her pinned) was: “We are deeply committed to free expression, but not when it violates our policies against bullying, and intimidation, and harassment. Then we have strong disciplinary processes in place.”
Gay invoked “processes” in other contexts, too, despite diminishing returns that, by the end of the ordeal, had turned the term into an object of derision.
“I didn’t ask about your processes,” an obviously exasperated Rep. Nathaniel Moran, R-Texas, spat out at one point. “I am asking for action. How many students have been disciplined? How many have been held to account?”
On questions about expelling foreign students, who have obviously been a substantial part of the anti-Jewish demonstrations, Gay’s magic words were: “Our international students are an enormous source of pride for Harvard and part of our strength as an institution. But we hold those students accountable to the same set of disciplinary processes that we hold all of our students accountable to.”
Harvard’s president repeated this again and again, only demonstrating that someone had sat with her and worked out messaging.
“Antisemitism has no place at Harvard” was another incantation Gay hurled over and over, despite the enormous evidence showing Jewish students being harassed at Harvard and the school’s long and shameful history of Jew hatred.
But her robotic answers notwithstanding, Gay didn’t have the most horrific answers of the day. That dubious distinction goes either to Magill or Kornbluth. It’s a toss-up, so I’ll let the reader decide.
Magill’s moment came in an answer to Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. Stefanik asked, “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s code of conduct or rules regarding bullying and harassment?”
To which the smiling Magill eagerly affirmed, “It is a context-dependent decision.”
“That’s your testimony today? Calling for the genocide of Jews is dependent upon the context?” said an incredulous Stefanik. “That’s the easiest yes, Ms. Magill!”
Kornbluth’s drop-mic moment came in an exchange with Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, a former NFL star with a Super Bowl XV ring to prove it. He asked Kornbluth about the segregation of dorms and other places on campus.
“You have blacks-only dorms. Is it OK for whites to set up whites-only dorms where minorities are excluded?” asked Owens.
“It’s not exclusionary; it’s actually positive selection by students,” said Kornbluth, almost cheerily.
“We’re talking about segregation,” shot back Owens, a courtly and dignified black man who was born in 1951 and who, therefore, must have seen his share of racism. “It’s happening on your campuses!”
“There is a distinction between sending an exclusionary message and looking to other students for common experiences and support,” said Kornbluth, who may be highly accredited but apparently ignores that this is precisely how racists who supported Jim Crow would have defended segregation.
On second thought, perhaps it’s best to prepare beforehand with lawyers and communications people. Magill particularly has come under intense pressure to resign, and if her tone-deaf retort doesn’t convince the board that the “context” requires her departure, not much will.
[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.]
As the House hearing made clear, if higher-ed institutions indoctrinate the young into the narrative favored by the Left and keep out conservative professors, students, and ideas, most Democrats will run cover for them.
But these institutions, and those running interference, are obviously blind to the hit that this lopsided political approach is taking on their all-important brand.
If prospective employers, and the country at large, suspect that graduates from elite institutions will know no philosophy, no arts, no science—no beauty, truth, or good—but only how to “out-woke” each other, who will hire them?
This commentary was published originally by the Washington Examiner
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com, and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.