Updated Dec 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Harvard president apologizes over answers in antisemitism hearing

Harvard President Claudine Gay testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee on Dec. 5 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Harvard President Claudine Gay apologized for failing to more strongly denounce threats of antisemitic violence during congressional testimony that has received widespread backlash.

Why it matters: Major donors, the White House and campus communities at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT have condemned presidents of the three schools for their answers as to whether calls for the genocide of Jews would violate their codes of conduct.

  • "When words amplify distress and pain, I don't know how you could feel anything but regret," Gay told the Harvard Crimson in an interview published on Friday.

Driving the news: Gay said she "got caught up" in "an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures."

  • "What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged," Gay said.

Catch up quick: A donor to the University of Pennsylvania withdrew a $100 million gift because of school president Liz Magill's statements.

  • Gay, Magill and MIT president Sally Kornbluth have faced calls for their resignations regarding congressional testimony they gave.
  • Antisemitism, anti-Arab sentiments and hate crimes have increased in the U.S. and on college campuses since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and subsequent war in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Stanford said statements calling for genocide would violate the school's code of conduct for all of its students.

  • "Stanford unequivocally condemns calls for the genocide of Jews or any peoples," the university said on X, formerly Twitter.

Of note: More than a dozen House Democrats signed a letter on Friday calling the three presidents' actions "unacceptable," addressed to the governing boards of the universities.

  • "We ask you to review and update your school policies and codes of conduct to ensure they protect students from hate," the letter said.
  • A Republican-led House committee is launching an investigation into antisemitism at the three schools and other elite colleges in response to Tuesday's hearing.

Go deeper: Penn loses $100 million donation over antisemitism hearing

Go deeper