Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R, NY) asked a question of three university presidents, Claudine Gay of Harvard, Elizabeth Magill of Penn, and Sally Kornbluth of MIT, a simple, straightforward question at last week’s House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing regarding campus antisemitism:
Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s rules or code of conduct, yes or no?
Magill’s answer, smirk on her face:
It is a context-dependent decision, Congresswoman.
Gay repeated the claim:
It can be, depending on the context.
Kornbluth tried to dodge the question altogether:
I have not heard calling for the genocide of Jews on our campus.
Stefanik called her on that…misinformation:
But you’ve heard chants for intifada.
I’ve heard chants which can be antisemitic depending on the context when calling for the elimination of the Jewish people.
Wednesday after the hearing, Magill attempted to clarify:
In that moment, I was focused on our university’s longstanding policies aligned with the US Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable. I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It’s evil—plain and simple.
A couple of things about that. At the hearing, Magill spoke from what was in her heart. Further, as a talented academic and a university president, words are her stock in trade. She knew exactly what she was saying, she knew exactly what she was focused on in real time—and she focused and said those words deliberately and consciously. This statement, coming as it does later, after the outpouring of opprobrium, can hardly be taken as sincere. All Magill is doing now is covering her academic and political behind.
The other thing is that, in that statement’s second half (not quoted above, but it’s a two-minute video) Magill made the sotto voce admission that calls for Jewish genocide are not against Penn’s current rules. With that tacit admission, she “promised” to work with the Provost to adjust Penn’s rules. Sometime. She was careful to not offer a timeline for this effort, not even a general one, nor did she commit to what those “adjustments” would look like.
One more thing about Stefanik’s question and those presidents’ answers. An obvious follow-up question is “In what context would such calls for the genocide of Jews be acceptable in any legal way?”
Stefanik did put that question to Gay:
What’s the context?
Targeted at an individual[.]
Stefanik followed up on that “individual” evasion, and Gay then refused to answer beyond repeating her claim if targeting an individual. Apparently, at Harvard, calling for the destruction of groups of Jews is acceptable. One or two at a time, maybe not.
These are three school presidents who need to be fired for cause—not passively allowed to resign—and these are three schools that need to have all Federal funds headed their way canceled until those schools show, over a suitable number years, that they have corrected their behavior.