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(NewsNation) — Leaders at prestigious universities are facing backlash for their response to antisemitism on campus.
Lawmakers held a hearing Tuesday where they pressed the presidents of Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania on what they were doing to protect Jewish students on campus.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, 73% of Jewish college students have experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.
There were several tense moments between representatives and the university presidents at the congressional hearing.
Harvard President Claudine Gay was asked by Rep. Nathaniel Moran, R-Texas, about whether any students have been expelled or disciplined for “bullying or harassment” stemming from antisemitism.
In response, Gay said Harvard has “robust student disciplinary processes and that students have been “held to account for any episode in which they violated our behavior-based policies.”
One highly-criticized exchange that went viral on social media showed Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., asking Gay if calling for the genocide of Jews violates Harvard’s rules.
Gay said that it can be “depending on the context,” an answer that drew swift criticism.
In an interview with The Harvard Crimson, Gay apologized for her remarks.
“I am sorry,” Gay said. “Words matter.”
Harvard posted a statement on X, the social media site known as Twitter, from Gay on Wednesday further clarifying that “calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile” and have no place on campus.
University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill was asked a similar question and also said the question needed context. She later made a video posted on the University of Pennsylvania’s Twitter page saying that “a call for genocide for Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetuate.”
“It’s evil,” Magill said in the video.
Now, Congress has opened an investigation into MIT, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard, and some donors have said they will withdraw major gifts to the institutions.
Wharton’s business school board is asking for McGill to resign from Penn, and a rabbi resigned from an advisory board Gay put together at Harvard to combat antisemitism. The rabbi says he stepped aside because of Gay’s comments at the congressional hearing.
Meanwhile, MIT’s governing board put out a statement expressing its full support for President Sally Kornbluth.
While lawmakers and others have been vocal about antisemitism in colleges, some say similar increases in Islamophobia since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel aren’t getting as much attention, NewsNation partner The Hill reports.
Lina Assi, advocacy manager for Palestine Legal, told the outlet it’s received more than 600 requests for support, with a huge percentage from students asking for help “because of these different experiences of discrimination and harassment that they’ve been facing.”
“I have one friend that is hijabi, and she had someone telling her that her religion is a violent religion and that they are technically terrorists and all the problems in the world are technically because of Islam,” one Palestinian student from Colorado State University said in The Hill.
Recently, three Palestinian college students in Burlington, Vermont, were shot while visiting one of their homes for Thanksgiving break. Police are investigating the shooting, which left one student paralyzed, as a potential hate crime.
NewsNation digital producer Cassie Buchman contributed to this article.