Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, Liz Magill, President of Universi
Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, Liz Magill, President of UniversiKevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers in the US House of Representatives announced the opening of a formal investigation against universities over their response or lack thereof to antisemitic incidents on their campuses.

The announcement yesterday (Thursday) follows the Congressional hearing on Tuesday in which the Presidents of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn refused to say that calls for genocide against Jews are against university policy.

House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) said: “After this week’s pathetic and morally bankrupt testimony by university presidents when answering my questions, the Education and Workforce Committee is launching an official Congressional investigation with the full force of subpoena power into Penn, MIT, & Harvard and others."

She added: “We will use our full Congressional authority to hold these schools accountable for their failure on the global stage.”

Education and Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said that the probe will investigate the learning environments and disciplinary procedures at the schools. "Committee members have deep concerns with their leadership and their failure to take steps to provide Jewish students the safe learning environment they are due under law,” she said.

The investigation could result in the universities losing federal funding under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act if they are found to discriminate against Jewish students.

During the Congressional hearing on Tuesday, when Rep. Elise Stefanik asked directly if “calling for the genocide of Jews” is against the universities’ respective codes of conduct, all three presidents said the answer depended on the context.

“It is a context-dependent decision,” Penn President Liz Magill responded, leading Stefanik to reply, “Calling for the genocide of Jews is dependent on the context? That is not bullying or harassment? This is the easiest question to answer ‘yes,’ Ms. Magill.”

Responding to the same question, Harvard President Claudine Gay said, “When speech crosses into conduct, we take action.” MIT President Sally Kornbluth said that such language would only be “investigated as harassment if pervasive and severe.”

In late November, the Anti-Defamation League reported that nearly three-quarters of Jewish college students in the US reported experiencing or witnessing antisemitism since the massacre of October 7.

"73% of Jewish college students surveyed have experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year," the ADL stated. "Before this semester, 70% of Jewish students reported witnessing or experiencing antisemitism during their entire four-year college career, rather than in just one semester. In addition, 44% of non-Jewish college students reported witnessing or experiencing some form of antisemitism this semester.