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Harvard ignored own antisemitism taskforce’s advice: House investigation

University defends actions, says investigation ‘incomplete, inaccurate’

Harvard is defending its approach to combating antisemitism after an investigation by a U.S. House committee found the university failed to employ the recommendations of the advisory group it established to address the problem.

The report by the House Education and the Workforce Committee found Harvard’s Antisemitism Advisory Group gave leaders “a robust set of significant recommendations … which were not made public and remain unimplemented.”

The findings are part of a larger investigation of antisemitism on college campuses across the country and university leaders’ responses.

Harvard spokesman Jason Newton told The College Fix in a recent email that he was disappointed by the “selective excerpts from internal documents” that present “an incomplete and inaccurate view of Harvard’s overall efforts to combat antisemitism.”

Newton, director of media relations at Harvard, said the Antisemitism Advisory Group played an important role in establishing “the groundwork for ongoing efforts to combat antisemitism” and changing campus for the better.

He told The Fix the university’s “community and campus are different today because of the actions we have taken, and continue to take, to combat hate and to promote and nurture civil dialogue and respectful engagement.”

Former President Claudine Gay established the advisory group in October 2023 to address “increased antisemitism” on campus following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel. Gay resigned a few months later after being accused of not doing enough to address antisemitism. Her departure also was tied to numerous plagiarism accusations.

The group — “composed of Harvard faculty, alumni […], and a student representative” — aimed to provide “Harvard’s leadership with significant recommendations on goals and steps to address antisemitism at the University,” according to the House investigation.

However, the investigation found significant measures had not been taken to ensure the security of Harvard’s Jewish population.

North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, who chairs the House committee, said in a May news release that none of the AAG’s suggestions were “implemented with any real vigor.”

These suggestions included a implementing a “zero tolerance” policy “for classroom disruptions” and “holding student organizations accountable for adhering to University rules.”

According to the House report, the problems identified by the advisory group included “insufficiency of Harvard’s response to reports of antisemitic incidents” and “dramatic declines in Jewish enrollment at Harvard.” The group also found a “need to examine terror financiers’ potential influence at Harvard; [and] The need to address masked protest on campus,” according to the Congressional investigation.

However, the investigation found “Harvard’s leaders failed to implement…[the] recommendations,” resulting in “chaos” on campus.

For example, the report cited the “unlawful encampment” erected in Harvard Yard on April 24. This “liberated zone,” as it was christened by pro-Palestinian protestors, “caused significant disruptions of University life and became a hotbed for antisemitism incidents and even criminal conduct,” according to the investigation.

Rather than taking immediate action against protestors, Harvard made “concessions to the students responsible for the encampment in exchange for its disbandment,” the report states.

These concessions ranged from considering divestment from Israel to interfering with legal proceedings by “recommending leniency and expediting disciplinary proceedings” for student protestors facing “conduct charges for [their] involvement in the encampment,” according to the report.

MORE: House committee subpoenas Harvard for withholding documents in antisemitism probe

But Newton disagreed with the House investigation findings, telling The Fix that “Harvard has demonstrated its focus and commitment and attentiveness to combating antisemitism, and these efforts are reflected in the many voluminous submissions to the committee.”

“Harvard has continued to cooperate with the Committee’s inquiry and address their ongoing questions,” Newton said.

He emphasized Harvard’s “unequivocal” commitment to ensuring “antisemitism is not and will not be tolerated on our campus” and mentioned steps the university has taken to achieve this.

These include facilitating “student safety and support; Updating and clarifying policies; Providing multiple avenues for reporting and disciplinary processes to address violations of policy, including harassment and threats; Prioritizing respectful dialogue and civil discourse, particularly as part of an educational community; [and] Listening to and learning with our Jewish community,” Newton said.

However, Harvard received internal complaints about its actions as well.

According to the House report, “A majority of the AAG threatened to resign over concerns about the inadequacy of Harvard’s response to antisemitism and a lack of clarity on the AAG’s charge and future work.”

Congresswoman Foxx said in the news release that incidents like the resignation threats led her to believe that “former President Gay and Harvard’s leadership propped up the university’s Antisemitism Advisory Group all for show,” with no actual intention of opposing discrimination.

The advisory group is now defunct. In January, interim President Alan Garber established a similar group, the Presidential Task Force on Combating Antisemitism.

Its goal is “to understand why and how” “reports of antisemitic … acts on our campus have grown” and “what more we might do to prevent it.” Members include faculty, administrators, and students.

Newton responded to a separate email The Fix sent to the task force asking about the former advisory group and the House investigation. He told The Fix the university did not have any further comments.

The Fix also contacted Harvard Hillel, the HKS Jewish Caucus and Israel Caucus, and Harvard’s Office of the President twice recently, but did not receive a response. Questions pertained to Harvard’s response to campus antisemitism, the implementation of the advisory group’s suggestions, and the House committee’s investigation.

MORE: MIT union ignored Jewish members’ objection to Israel boycott: federal complaint

IMAGES: Harvard/Facebook, House Education and the Workforce Committee

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Emily McMichael is a student at Liberty University where she is pursuing a degree in English literature and writing. In her spare time, she enjoys writing poetry and literary analyses, and is the author of Within and Without the World of Gatsby: A Critical Analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Masterpiece.