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Harvard Must Find Its Moral Clarity

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During the American Revolution, America’s colleges served as bastions of moral clarity, leveraging the teachings of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau to bolster America’s fight for freedom and democracy. Harvard took part in shaping this revolutionary fervor. General George Washington even quartered his troops in the historic Massachusetts and Hollis Halls.

Today, Harvard University has been so corrupted by its apparent desperation to appease the far-left that its moral compass has been long forgotten. It is profoundly disappointing to see Harvard University, a prestigious institution which we care so deeply about, devolve from fostering an age of American independence into an institution that enables abhorrent antisemitism.

On Oct. 7, Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and brutally murdered more than 1,000 people, leading to the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Hamas terrorists massacred concertgoers, raped women, barbarically burned people alive, beheaded babies, and kidnapped more than 200 innocent men, women, and children, many of whom are still being held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

As the free world watched in horror at the grotesque Hamas attack, evil antisemitism erupted on America’s college campuses. Following the attack, more than 30 Harvard student organizations co-signed a public statement in response to Hamas’ attack claiming that Israel was “entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” These Harvard student groups effectively blamed Israel for the unimaginable atrocities that Hamas inflicted on Israeli civilians.

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While this statement is sickening and multiple groups have since retracted their signatures, what is worse is the failure of Harvard’s leadership to immediately condemn the statement. Harvard’s silence created a vacuum in which heinous antisemitism echoes loudly.

To fill this void, I led my fellow Harvard alumni on Capitol Hill in a letter condemning the statement and demanding that University President Claudine Gay denounce antisemitism. Yet throughout President Claudine Gay’s numerous statements at this point, she has never condemned the Harvard student organizations; instead, she has declared that Harvard is committed to creating an environment that fosters free speech and open dialogue.

Harvard alumni and students are well aware that the University stifles free speech; recently, Harvard ranked dead last in the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s college free speech rankings. Strikingly, in multiple of President Claudine Gay’s remarks responding to the Israel-Hamas war, she has stressed Harvard’s commitment to freedom of speech, even saying, “It’s in the exercise of our freedom to speak that we reveal our characters. And we reveal the character of our institution.”

President Claudine Gay has certainly revealed the lack of character of Harvard as an institution — coupled with Harvard’s abysmal record of protecting free speech, the willingness of Harvard University to now vehemently defend free speech when that speech calls for the death of Jews and the eradication of Israel is absolutely revelatory in Harvard’s unacceptable lack of moral clarity.

This rot of antisemitism is not only plaguing Harvard University but is proliferating on campuses all over the country. While these universities desperately attempt to appease the far-left through hiring an army of diversity, equity, and inclusion officers, a professor at Cornell University claimed that Hamas’ murdering and hostage taking on Oct. 7 made him feel exhilarated. A group of students at George Washington University projected “Free Palestine from the river to the sea,” a phrase calling for the eradication of the state of Israel and the genocide of the Jewish people.

The plague of antisemitism on our college campuses is rotting out these institutions, and it must be stopped.

Universities across America receive billions of taxpayer dollars through federal grants, contracts, and tax incentives. It is unacceptable, and frankly un-American, that taxpayer dollars are supporting Harvard professors — even department chairs — and students who are defending the phrase, “from the river to the sea,” which implies genocidal elimination of the Jewish state. This is why I am working to ban federal funds from any university that enables antisemitism to proliferate on their campus.

House Republicans will investigate how universities like Harvard have devolved from helping lead our nation in the fight for independence to promulgating terrorist apologists. To ensure Jewish students are able to attend school in a safe environment, I will work in Congress to demand that America’s colleges and universities implement institutional changes to rid antisemitism from their campuses.

As a senior member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the highest-ranking Republican woman in the United States Congress, and a Harvard alumna, I will hold President Claudine Gay accountable when she is under oath today for her responsibility in allowing antisemitism to proliferate on Harvard’s campus and continue to call for her resignation.

As a Harvard alumna, I believe we must demand that the most well-recognized and preeminent higher education institution in the world rediscover its moral clarity and eliminate antisemitism from its campus.

Correction: December 5, 2023

A previous version of this op-ed incorrectly stated that more than 1,000 Israeli civilians were killed on Oct. 7. In fact, at least 845 civilians were killed, while more than 1,000 people died total, according to Israeli officials.

Correction: December 5, 2023

A previous version of this op-ed linked to an older Oct. 12 CNN article about babies killed in Israel on Oct. 7. That link has since been updated to a Nov. 6 Media Line article.

Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.) represents New York’s 21st District in the House of Representatives, serves as the House Republican Conference Chair, and is a senior member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

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