The Biden Administration reacted to Tuesday's congressional hearing on the phenomenon of rising antisemitism on college campuses in which the Presidents of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn refused to say that calls for genocide against Jews are against university policy.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates stated today (Wednesday): "It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country. Any statements that advocate for the systematic murder of Jews are dangerous and revolting – and we should all stand firmly against them, on the side of human dignity and the most basic values that unite us as Americans."
During the Congressional hearing yesterday, when New York Republican 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.”
Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial museum, condemned the university presidents for their tolerance of calls for genocide against the Jewish people.
"Yesterday's congressional hearings addressing antisemitism on university and college campuses highlight the willful lack of accountability when it comes to Jews, Israel, and antisemitism on campus and in academia," Yad Vashem wrote in a statement.
"Yad Vashem is extremely alarmed by University Presidents of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn refusal to claim that genocidal calls against Jews do not violate university policy and code of conduct. In fact, when the three presidents were asked point blank whether calls for the genocide of the Jews violated university rules or code of conduct, their response was it was a 'context-dependent decision'. Yad Vashem is appalled that leaders of elite academic institutions would use misleading contextualization to minimize and excuse calls for the genocide of the Jews. The positions taken by the three university presidents in their testimonies highlight a basic ignorance of history, including the fact that the Holocaust did not start with ghettos or gas chambers but with hateful antisemitic rhetoric, decrees, and actions by senior academics, among other leaders of society," it added.