Curated By: Shankhyaneel Sarkar
Last Updated: December 11, 2023, 09:52 IST
Washington D.C., United States of America (USA)
Harvard University President Claudine Gay testifies before a House Education and The Workforce Committee hearing titled Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism on Capitol Hill in Washington, US. (Image: Reuters)
Harvard President Claudine Gay received the backing of students but thousands of donors are ready to stop funding the Ivy League university for her answers on rising anti-semitism and islamophobia on campus.
Hundreds of Harvard faculty have signed a letter backing the university’s president after her testimony at a congressional hearing on the rise of campus anti-Semitism ignited pressure for her to resign, a US newspaper reported Sunday.
The letter backing Claudine Gay, which was reported on by the Boston Globe, came after her counterpart at another Ivy League university stepped down on Saturday in the face of withering criticism and political pressure over their appearance at Tuesday’s hearing.
The letter and the hearing both come as a rise in hate attacks and offensive rhetoric targeting Jews and Muslims since the eruption of the current conflict in Gaza fuels a debate on the boundaries of free speech in the United States.
The letter warns that political bids to remove Gay are “at odds with Harvard’s commitment to academic freedom,” according to the Globe, and calls on administrators to “defend the independence of the university.”
Gay, University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill, and the Massachusett Institute of Technology’s Sally Kornbluth gave long, legalistic answers when asked whether students who call for the “genocide of Jews” on their campuses violate codes of student conduct.
Blowback to their testimony was rapid and intense, with donors threatening to rescind millions of dollars to the institutions, and raging debates popping up on social media.
Seventy-four lawmakers wrote letters demanding their immediate removal.
Magill stepped down on Saturday. MIT’s governing board has said it will back Kornbluth.
Gay apologised afterwards for failing to more strongly condemn threats of anti-Semitic violence on her campus.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Republican congresswoman Elise Stefanik asked each of the presidents if calling for the genocide of Jews violated university rules or codes of conduct.
“The rules around bullying and harassment are quite specific. And if the context in which that language is used amounts to bullying and harassment then we take action against it,” Gay responded, according to a transcript posted on Stefanik’s office’s website.
Gay agreed that calling for the genocide of Jews is anti-Semitic, and told Stefanik: “When speech crosses into conduct, we take action.”
When Stefanik heard similar answers from the others, she erupted: “It does not depend on the context. The answer is yes, and this is why you should resign.”
After Magill resigned, Stefanik released a statement saying: “One down. Two to go.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – AFP)