A billionaire Harvard donor and alumnus has demanded the university president to resign after she refused to say that calling for the genocide of Jews was harassment.
Bill Ackman, a hedge fund manager who in 2014 gave $26 million to the university, said on Tuesday he was outraged by the performance of Claudine Gay.
Ackman, who is Jewish, accused her of ‘profound moral bankruptcy’ and said she and other university presidents who spoke at a Congressional hearing on Tuesday must ‘resign in disgrace’.
Gay was called to testify before the House education committee, along with the president of the University of Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Magill, and the president of MIT, Sally Kornbluth, who is Jewish.
All three women were pressed by Elise Stefanik, the chair of the House Republican Conference, over their actions to stamp out antisemitism on their campuses.
Claudine Gay, president of Harvard, is seen on Tuesday appearing before the House education committee to discuss antisemitism
Elizabeth Magill, president of the University of Pennsylvania (left), and Sally Kornbluth, president of MIT (right) also testified on Tuesday
The three universities have been roiled by a series of pro-Palestine marches on their campuses in the wake of the October 7 attack, with students blaming Israel for Hamas‘ terrorist outrage, and saying the country deserved it.
Some academics have expressed rabidly anti-Israel opinions, and threats have been made against Jewish students on campus.
All three presidents have admitted they were slow to distance themselves from student groups justifying the October 7 massacres.
But they insisted that they wanted to preserve an environment of free speech – and refused, to Stefanik’s fury, to give a ‘yes or no’ answer to questions about condemning certain rhetoric.
‘I am asking, specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?’ asked Stefanik.
Gay told her that it depended on the context.
Stefanik responded that it was ‘the easiest question’, then answered for them: ‘The answer is yes.’
Stefanik pressed Gay over whether Harvard would punish students or applicants who advocate for the murder of Jews.
Elise Stefanik, a Republican representing New York, grilled the three university presidents on Tuesday
Gay replied: ‘That type of hateful, reckless, offensive speech is personally abhorrent to me.’
She said the university had ‘robust policies’ that hold individuals accountable when speech crosses into conduct, such as bullying, harassment or intimidation.
‘We embrace a commitment to free expression and give a wide berth to free expression even to views that are objectionable, outrageous and offensive,’ Gay said.
At one point, Gay said: ‘I’ve sought to confront hate while preserving free expression. This is difficult work, and I know that I have not always gotten it right.’
But Stefanik said their answers were ‘unacceptable’, and demanded all three resign.
Ackman said he was horrified by the testimony.
Bill Ackman, who is worth $3.5billion and completed his BA and MBA at Harvard University, blamed Gay for the ‘blatant’ newfound antisemitism, saying the hatred is caused by ‘your actions, and inactions’
Palestinian supporters gathered at Harvard University to show their support for Gaza, and their hatred for Israel, at a rally in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 14
Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee triggered fury by writing – on October 7 – that Israel was ‘entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.’ President Claudine Gay has been heavily criticized for failing to appropriately condemn the students who backed the statement
‘This could be the most extraordinary testimony ever elicited in the Congress, certainly on the topic of genocide,’ he wrote on X.
‘The presidents’ answers reflect the profound educational, moral and ethical failures that pervade certain of our elite educational institutions due in large part to their failed leadership.’
He said that the trio’s answers would be unacceptable in the business world.
‘If a CEO of one of our companies gave a similar answer, he or she would be toast within the hour,’ he said.
‘Why has antisemitism exploded on campus and around the world?
‘Because of leaders like Presidents Gay, Magill and Kornbluth who believe genocide depends on the context.
‘To think that these are the leaders of Ivy League institutions that are charged with the responsibility to educate our best and brightest.’
His criticism of Gay comes just days after the billionaire posted an open letter on X accusing Harvard of discriminating against ‘straight white men’ and railing against the university’s equity and inclusion efforts.
The Jewish student organization, Harvard Hillel, said that Gay’s ‘refusal’ to ‘draw a line’ on threatening antisemitic speech is ‘profoundly shocking.’
Harvard Hillel said that they questioned the president’s ‘ability to protect Jewish students on Harvard’s campus.’
‘We are appalled by the need to state the obvious: A call for genocide against Jews is always a hateful incitement of violence. President Gay’s failure to properly condemn this speech calls into question her ability to protect Jewish students on Harvard’s campus,’ the Harvard Hillel said.
‘Chants to ‘globalize the intifada,’ an endorsement of violent terrorist attacks against Jewish and Israeli civilians, and ‘from the river to the sea,’ an eliminationist slogan intended to deprive Jews of their right to self-determination in Israel, have become tragically routine at Harvard.’
Newly surfaced video shows a confrontation at a recent demonstration on Harvard University’s campus, where pro-Palestinian protesters surrounded a student chanting ‘shame’
Protesters encircle a man (with arms up), moving through the yard during the October 18 protest at Harvard University, holding up keffiyehs (scarfs) before he slips into a nearby building
Magill, the UPenn president, was questioned over her school’s participation in a ‘Palestine Writes Festival’ in September.
A complaint filed with the Education Department against Penn cites the festival as a catalyst for antisemitic incidents on campus. Speakers included several with a history of making antisemitic remarks, such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.
She said antisemitic speech at the event was ‘abhorrent’ to her and that the institution put safety precautions into place.
‘Why in the world would you host someone like that on your campus?’ asked Jim Banks, a Republican congressman for Indiana.
‘Antisemitism has no place at Penn,’ Magill began to answer.
Banks interrupted, and asked: ‘Why did you invite Roger Waters?’
She concluded: ‘I think canceling that conference would have been very inconsistent with academic freedom and free expression despite the fact that the views of some of the people who came to that conference I find very, very objectionable because of their antisemitism.’