Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra expressed her support for Harvard President Claudine Gay’s statement condemning Hamas’ attacks in her first interview with The Crimson as dean of the FAS.
Hoekstra endorsed Gay’s response to a controversial statement issued Saturday by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and originally co-signed by 33 other student groups that said Israel was “entirely responsible” for the violence. At least nine student groups have since withdrawn their signatures, even as the PSC later wrote that it “staunchly opposes” violence against all civilians.
Gay and other top administrators, including Hoekstra, sent a message to Harvard affiliates Monday evening calling for unity. The statement received widespread criticism, including from former University President Lawrence H. Summers, for not directly condemning Hamas or the student groups’ statement.
Gay sent another message the following morning directly condemning Hamas and saying that “no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.”
Thursday evening, following The Crimson’s interview with Hoekstra, Gay declared in a released video statement that the University would not punish students affiliated with the signatories of the PSC’s statement.
In Thursday’s interview, Hoekstra defended — and largely deferred to — the administration’s response.
“I stand by President Gay and her statement, which I think is very strong and powerful, condemning the terrorist atrocities perpetuated by Hamas,” she said.
“I think that students can express their opinions,” she added. “As President Gay really clearly articulated that no student statements represent Harvard.”
She did not say whether she felt the statement had dangerous implications or whether the students who signed it should face consequences.
Over the past week, several students associated with groups who signed the PSC statement experienced multiple instances of doxxing, including a billboard truck that drove around Harvard Square Wednesday and Thursday displaying the names of students allegedly affiliated with organizations that signed the statement.
Hoekstra did not directly address the doxxing attacks, but she said, “We really care about students — all our students.”
Both the College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are reaching out to students impacted by the conflict, Hoekstra added.
“I'll point you to Dean Khurana and Dean Dench at the graduate school outlining the details of this, but I think the main point that I want to say is that we are really focused on making sure that all of our students feel supported,” she said, referring to Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and GSAS Dean Emma Dench.
Both Harvard’s initial response and the statement by the PSC attracted international scrutiny, including from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Congressman Jake D. Auchincloss ’10 (D-Mass.) told Politico that he had communicated with University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, but Hoekstra said she has not been in touch with any lawmakers.
According to Hoekstra, Dench has been “thinking a lot about” Harvard affiliates who may be drafted into the Israeli military as a result of this conflict. The Israeli government has called up at least 360,000 reservists in the Israeli Defense Forces, according to multiple news outlets.
Hoekstra said she believed one non-tenure-track faculty member had been called back to Israel to serve but said she did not know of any others.
She said Dench was working to “pull together individuals that are potentially or have been called back, really bringing them together as a community across the school and at Harvard to support each other.”
—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at email@example.com.
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