“If I might correct the premise of your question” became the phrase of the day from university leaders Thursday in a contentious House hearing focused on antisemitism.

Appearing before the House Education and Workforce Committee were Michael Schill, president of Northwestern University; Jonathan Holloway, president of Rutgers University; and Gene Block, chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Lawmakers asked the university heads to discuss their role in contributing to the disastrous anti-Israel protests and encampments on their campuses, which resulted in assault, battery, vandalism, intimidation, entrapment, theft, and other crimes.

Of the three, only Hollaway gave a definitive answer when asked how many students were suspended or otherwise punished for their illegal actions: He said Rutgers suspended four students. 

Block gave a noncommittal answer regarding UCLA. Schill flat-out refused to discuss the possibility of removing any Northwestern student or professor from campus after documented incidents of assault, battery, stalking, and entrapment.

Lawmakers on the committee asked Schill the most questions, but he provided the fewest answers.

Northwestern University brokered deals to appease anti-Israel occupiers on campus, agreeing to give money to Palestinian students and professors.  Northwestern administrators also agreed to launch an advisory committee to consider breaking ties with businesses that do business in Israel, among them Coca-Cola and Starbucks.

Schill would not tell the House committee why Jewish students or many members of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees weren’t invited to attend meetings in which deals with the anti-Israel protesters were brokered. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chairman of the committee, and other GOP lawmakers demanded that the university leaders answer for what they considered a lackluster response to threats against Jewish students on campus during protests of the Israel-Hamas war.

Republican lawmakers asking tough questions included Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana, Elise Stefanik and Brandon Williams of New York, Bob Good of Virginia, Burgess Owens of Utah, Kevin Kiley of California, and Aaron Bean of Florida.

However, none of the three university heads took responsibility for crimes that occurred on their campuses during the protests. Nor did any agree that appointing openly antisemitic individuals to university committees might compromise Jewish students. 

They refused to answer over 40 “yes” or “no” questions from committee members. 

Schill refused to condemn the antisemitic statements of Northwestern staff and students, read to him verbatim by Stefanik. He also refused to confirm that definitive action—such as removing students or faculty who were documented committing crimes—would be taken to protect Jewish students. 

Despite Stefanik’s pressing him four times, Schill refused to say whether he believed that the Israeli government is “genocidal.”

Israel’s government currently consists of an emergency “unity coalition” of left-wing, center, and right-wing factions in response to the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists of about 1,200 Israeli civilians. The terrorists also took hostage about 250 civilians from over 15 nations, including the U.S.

Schill, Block, and Holloway agreed that they had done what they considered necessary as university heads to protect Jewish students: They authorized removal of the anti-Israel encampments. 

Foxx, Stefanik, Banks, and Williams all pointed out that the three men dragged their feet. But Schill and Holloway both claimed that they were up in the early hours of morning to take phone calls about the encampments at Northwestern and Rutgers, respectively.

Regardless of when university presidents were awake to take phone calls, the tent cities at Northwestern, Rutgers, and UCLA were up for several days in a row, and criminal activity occurred in or near all three camps.

Schill refused to cooperate by answering almost any question from Republican lawmakers with a “yes” or “no.” He instead responded over 10 times with a variation of “If I might correct the premise of your question.”

Foxx, the committee’s chair, described Schill’s behavior at the hearing as “condescending and contemptuous” in an exclusive statement to The Daily Signal:

I was appalled by President Schill’s condescending and contemptuous attitude today, as he repeatedly refused to answer committee questions and gave multiple misleading answers about the shameful agreement he signed. This conduct is unbecoming of a university president and proves just how unserious he and his administration are about combating antisemitism at Northwestern.

The three university leaders’ responses to Democrats on the committee were more cordial. Each thanked the Democrats for their questions, which were aimed more toward Republican members than the anti-Israel encampments or the three university leaders.

Notably, Rep. Suzanne Bonamicij, D-Ore., spent her allotted five minutes criticizing Republicans for not denouncing former President Donald Trump for posting what she called a “Nazi” video. This was a false assertion

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., drew immense criticism for appearing to make excuses for anti-Israel protesters who blocked Jewish students from using public walkways on campus, telling UCLA’s Block that it was still “possible” for Jewish students to find other ways to walk around.

Omar lambasted Block for not preventing the showing of video from the Oct. 7 massacre near the encampment.

Omar, who is Muslim, has been criticized repeatedly for using antisemitic language, which led to her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Feb. 2023.

In a moment that could spell serious legal trouble for the university leaders, Williams asked whether they were aware that ordering campus police departments to refuse to take and publish reports of crimes was a “violation of the Clery Act.” 

The Daily Signal exclusively reported Tuesday on Northwestern’s apparent violations of that federal law during anti-Israel protests on campus.

The Clery Act, passed in 1990, is a transparency law requiring all universities, both public and private, to publicize all crimes that occur on or near campus.

Schill, Block, and Holloway responded that they weren’t aware of that—which is highly unlikely. Northwestern University, Rutgers University, and UCLA have dedicated Clery Act training that all staff are required to take. All three universities also have offices dedicated to ensuring compliance with the federal law.

In 2019, Schill was interviewed by Eugene Weekly about law firms investigating their own members. The Northwestern president demonstrated considerable knowledge of the law’s requirements and implementation of policies to satisfy them.

The House committee has published a “recap” of the hearing. The three university leaders, as well as other lawmakers, didn’t respond to The Daily Signal’s requests for comment by time of publication.