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Harvard Ignored Antisemitism Advisory Group’s Recommendations, House Committee Says

A Republican-dominated congressional committee released on Thursday a scathing report of Harvard’s efforts to combat antisemitism on campus, accusing it of suppressing the findings of its antisemitism advisory group and avoiding implementing its recommendations, even as Jewish students were experiencing “pervasive ostracization” and being harassed.

Harvard has been particularly under fire by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which wrote the report and which has taken an anti-elitist tack against several of America’s top universities.

In the 42-page staff report, the committee focused on Harvard’s eight-member antisemitism advisory group and examples of what it said were shortcomings of the university in combating antisemitism on campus. The group was created in the aftermath of the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7 as antisemitic incidents on campus rose.

“Harvard’s leadership propped up the university’s Antisemitism Advisory Group all for show,” Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, and the chairwoman of the House committee, said in a statement issued with the report. “Not only did the A.A.G. find that antisemitism was a major issue on campus, it offered several recommendations on how to combat the problem — none of which were ever implemented with any real vigor.”

In response, Harvard said that the advisory group had helped to establish the groundwork for its continuing efforts to combat antisemitism on campus. The group has since disbanded and been replaced by two task forces, one to combat antisemitism and another to combat anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias.

Jason Newton, a Harvard spokesman, said the university was cooperating with the committee, and had provided 30,000 pages of information.

“It is disappointing to see selective excerpts from internal documents, shared in good faith, released in this manner, offering an incomplete and inaccurate view of Harvard’s overall efforts to combat antisemitism last fall and in the months since,” Mr. Newton said.

Thursday’s report was the first to come out of the House committee’s recent grilling of university presidents in congressional hearings on campus antisemitism, and the committee said there would be more to come. Claudine Gay, Harvard’s president at the time, was among the first to testify in December, and her legalistic answers helped lead to her resignation a month later.

According to the report, the group’s recommendations included holding student organizations accountable to university rules, countering antisemitic speech, reviewing the academic rigor of classes and programs reported to have antisemitic content, and investigating the potential influence of “dark money” from Iran, Qatar and associates of known terrorist groups.

The committee also said several Harvard offices designed to combat discrimination, including the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, had failed to vigorously address antisemitism at the university.

A majority of the members of the antisemitism advisory group were so disillusioned by Harvard’s lack of response to their work that they threatened to resign, the House report said.

Much of the material in the report came from notes of advisory group meetings that Harvard produced in response to a Feb. 16 subpoena and from the transcript of a committee interview with Dara Horn, an advisory group member.

Some examples of incidents of antisemitism the committee cited included a Harvard student’s report of being spat on while wearing a skullcap, an email chain describing threats to Harvard Hillel from students and others affiliated with the university, and an Israeli student being asked to leave a class because “some people feel uncomfortable that you’re here.”

But many of the anecdotal examples in the report were vague, with no mention of names, dates or corresponding police reports or other documentation.

In a letter to Harvard’s president and provost, five of the eight advisory members, including Dr. Horn, said that the lack of clarity of their mission had become a serious problem, according to the report. “The five of us listed below have conferred as a group and agreed that we will not be in a position to continue in our advocacy roles unless Harvard broadly reconsiders the ways in which it is confronting the antisemitism crisis on campus,” the Nov. 5 letter said. One of the advisory board members, Rabbi David Wolpe, did resign on Dec. 7.

The House education committee has had tremendous influence over the public image of the universities it has invited to testify. But it is unclear how much legislative power it has to change the way universities do business.

After Dr. Gay’s testimony, Columbia University’s president, Nemat Shafik, testified in April, and showed a tougher stance against pro-Palestinian protesters.

Her remarks led to a crackdown of an encampment at her school, which inspired a wave of student demonstrations at universities across the country, including at Harvard. Harvard’s encampment lasted three weeks before protesters reached an agreement with the university to extend leniency to participants who had been barred from campus and to discuss the terms of its endowment, a nod to calls for divestment from Israel.

And on May 23, the presidents of Northwestern, Rutgers and the University of California, Los Angeles, are expected to testify before the committee.

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