Does Campus Anti-Semitism Start At the Top?

Dr. Munr Kazmir
5 min readDec 7, 2023

Three top university presidents were asked “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate (your university’s) rules on bullying and harassment?” on Capitol Hill this week and gave non-answers.

Protest sign displayed during a recent on-campus march. San Francisco, California. December 3, 2023. (Photo: Charles Lewis III)

White House condemns university presidents after contentious congressional hearing on antisemitism,” reported Kyla Guilfoil for NBC News on Wednesday. “The presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT testified before Congress amid an increase in antisemitism on college campuses.”

The three university presidents were presented with a perfect opportunity to reassure the nation and anxious Jewish Americans that on-campus anti-Semitism would not be tolerated by America’s top institutions of higher learning.

They failed to do so. Instead, meandering, outright mystifying answers only served to add fire to the controversy.

University presidents proved spectacularly inept on Capitol Hill, raged the Chicago Tribune editorial board in a blistering screed on December 7. “Resignations should follow.”

The question, as the Tribune and other outlets have reported, was a simple one: “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate (your university’s) rules on bullying and harassment?”

“One after another, the presidents refused to answer Stefanik’s yes-or-no question, with Gay in particular dodging it like it was a scalding hot potato flying through Harvard Yard,” fumed the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board. “Caveats abounded: It depends on intensity, to what degree it is directed at individuals, what the circumstances present, yada, yada. At one truly surreal moment, Magill even replied that it would depend if the call morphed into ‘conduct,’ leading Stefanik to ask, incredulously, ‘Actual genocide?’”

Harvard President Claudine Gay: “Antisemitic rhetoric, when it crosses into conduct, it amounts to bullying, harassment, intimidation. That is actionable conduct, and we do take action.”

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill: “If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment.”

She also qualified the condemnation of genocide on the condition of context.

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