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Six Key Moments: Hearing on Antisemitism on College Campuses

June 18, 2024

“Elite universities are simply no longer driven by truth seeking or education as their guiding ethos”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – College and university leaders and administrators continue to cave to the demands of a loud, radical, disruptive minority on their campuses, putting the safety and security of Jewish students at risk. That’s the clear conclusion from a Ways and Means Committee hearing held to examine the antisemitism crisis occurring on college campuses. One witness, a recent Cornell graduate who testified at the Committee’s November hearing about fearing for her life as a Jewish student, shared that antisemitism on campus is now worse than the initial outburst after Hamas’ October 7th attack on Israel. Another witness, a professor at Columbia University, shared his firsthand accounts of how radical students, fueled by the hate taught by radical professors, brought the university to a grinding halt this spring.

This hearing was a part of the Committee’s ongoing investigation into several universities regarding their handling of violence against, and harassment of, Jewish students. The Committee’s work has already uncovered a disturbing pattern of weak university leadership that is failing to discipline students and faculty who violate campus policies as well as a failure to fulfill their institutions’ educational purposes for which they receive generous tax-exempt benefits under the U.S. tax code. 

Message to “Elite” Universities: School May Be Out, But We Will Not Forget

College campuses have emptied out for the summer, but Congress is continuing its investigation into antisemitism on college campuses after the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. In a clear message to colleges and universities, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) warned that the Committee would continue its investigative work to protect Jewish students on college campuses.

Chairman Smith: “To the universities listening, if you think we will lose focus, interest, or forget about this, you couldn’t be more wrong. We will continue to use the tools of the Ways and Means Committee to protect Americans on college campuses from danger until university administrators grow a spine and start doing their job.

University Funding of Hateful Student Groups Conflicts With Educational Mission

The Committee’s investigation has revealed that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a campus organization with chapters at numerous colleges, has played a leading role in the violence, threats, and harassment of Jewish students that swept college campuses this spring. Aside from providing funding, university administrators have, in many cases, shown themselves unwilling to discipline student groups that break campus policy. Rep. Adrian Smith (NE-03) pointed out that universities, many of whom have enormous wealth, fund student groups that spread anti-American ideas that endanger students and do not advance the educational mission on which these colleges’ tax-exempt status rest.

Rep. Smith: “Ms. Dror, I want to talk briefly about the 501(c)3 part of our tax code and that exempt purpose. We could talk probably a long time, in addition to the discussion here, in terms of tax-exempt status and what does that do for students. It certainly doesn’t seem to lower the tuition much. Especially when students would feel harassed in the environment, where these institutions have massive and generous tax breaks that they take advantage of. What would you say is the impact of students themselves?

Talia Dror, Cornell student: “Universities are using their federally-allocated funds to fund hateful student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, and its fellow organizations that essentially organize and spew hatred…They’re using their very exorbitant amount of power and wealth to fund anti-American students promoting hatred and anti-Americanism.

Columbia Professor: Weak Administrators and Radical Faculty Lead to Student Disruption

During the spring semester, Columbia University emerged as a hotbed for antisemitism and college disruption, where students set up one of the first encampments in violation of campus policy, and a group of radical students and outside agitators took over buildings on the campus. A business professor at the University told Ways and Means Committee Chairman Smith that a deadly cocktail of indoctrination from radical professors and a weak administration unwilling to enforce their own rules fueled the disruption and chaos at Columbia, similar to other “elite” universities. 

Chairman Smith: What do you think are the main factors that lead students to feel emboldened to essentially take over Columbia’s campus?

Professor Shai Davidai, Columbia University faculty: “I would say that there are two main factors. One is a complete lack of leadership and accountability from the administration. The student organizations and their leaders have seen that they can do whatever they want with complete impunity; that when they break the laws, the university will send out a strong email but will not follow it. When they get suspended, nothing actually is enforced. They can hold unauthorized protests and won’t be dispersed. They can basically spew out hate, antisemitism and, and pro-terror rhetoric, and nothing will happen to them. The second factor is the faculty. There have been many faculty who’ve not only indoctrinated these students and egged them on…but many faculty who actually defended with their bodies to stop police enforcement of the illegal encampment. When you have a mixture of pro-Hamas, pro-Islamic jihad faculty, and an administration that shows no leadership and no accountability, that’s what you get.

Smith: “I think it’s safe to say based on your answer there that Columbia has not been living up to its obligations to its students and fulfilling its educational purpose.

Davidai: “I would say that they didn’t even pretend to live up. It’s not that Columbia can’t. It’s that Columbia won’t.

“Elite” Universities Today: More DEI, Less Education

Colleges and universities benefit from their tax-exempt status under the presumption that these centers of learning and knowledge provide an educational benefit to students and society. Dr. Jonathan Pidluzny laid out how universities, in some cases, have shifted focus from an educational mission to both a political mission to “reengineer American society” and a financial mission to grow swelling budgets.

Dr. Jonathan Pidluzny, former professor and higher education expert: “I think the premise behind the tax exemption is that these are institutions that are organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes. Universities don’t look today what they looked like 50 years ago. They have $4, $5, or $6 billion budgets. They manage wealth equivalent to a large hedge fund. They sell a lavish college experience: luxury dorms, gourmet food subsidized by taxpayers. They operate multi-million or -billion dollar research labs. They hire teams of lobbyists. Some have hundreds of millions in foreign revenue. They run DEI programs that understand their purpose as being to reengineer American society. That’s a political purpose that is not an educative function. Elite universities are simply no longer driven by truth seeking or education as their guiding ethos.

Witnesses Agree: “Elite” Colleges Will Respond to Federal Carrots and Sticks

Universities that are finally beginning to confront rampant antisemitism on their campuses only began doing so once Congressional investigations exposed the weak and permissive actions of campus leadership. In response to Rep. Brad Wenstrup (OH-02), witnesses testified to how colleges’ tax-exempt status is a powerful tool at Congress’ disposal to further encourage these institutions to finally crack down on antisemitism and protect their students.  

Rep. Wenstrup: “What would happen if we cut off federal funds to any university that was allowing these types of things to go on on their campuses?

Professor Shai Davidai, Columbia University faculty: I would say that even before you cut it off, their knees will start shaking and change will happen. We have to remember, Columbia University is the largest private landlord in New York City. It is a tax-exempt, largest private landlord. They own the land of Rockefeller Center. They own most of Morningside Heights and many of the buildings in Harlem. If only the thought of losing that tax exemption would pass through their minds, you would see no more antisemitism, you wouldn’t see any misdoing, anything on campus. These universities, and I’ve spent a lot of time in these universities, are not elite universities; they’re expensive universities. All they care about is money and PR. If you start playing with that, things will change.

Talia Dror, Cornell student: “I couldn’t agree more. I would like to actually take this moment to thank Mr. Smith for his investigation. Every single positive action I’ve seen out of Cornell in the past seven months has been the result of the pressure of this Committee. I have a lot to be grateful for. I do think that you will see tangible results when you place pressure on these universities that think that they are allergic to any form of punishment.

Ivy League Double Standard: Disruptors Get Email Expressing Gratitude, While Jewish Student Gets Called a Nazi

A major focus of the hearing was the double standard shown by college administrators toward Jewish students facing threats, violence, campus disruption, and harassment. Rep. Beth Van Duyne (TX-24) read an email sent by Cornell’s president after that school’s encampment was disbanded. The email promised no disciplinary action against students who broke university policy by setting up the unauthorized encampment, while glossing over intimidation and hate shown to Jewish students. The email is indicative of a general approach of “elite” universities: anti-Israel, anti-America disruptors receive a free pass to terrorize Jewish students, whose fears and pleas for help are then minimized or ignored.

Rep. Van Duyne: “Ms. Dror…can you please share with us how you felt when you received this email, and how did you feel when you read that the president of your university said that the encampment participants here ‘remain peaceful and nonviolent?’

Talia Dror, Cornell student: This email was actually the moment I decided not to attend my graduation. This is laughable. I’ve spent the past eight months being called a Nazi because I believe in the existence of the state of Israel. For her to protect students, falsely mischaracterizing Israel defending itself as a genocide in the name of trivializing the Holocaust is laughable and shameful. I also want to bring up a point that you mentioned in that email. She said a Jewish student that criticized Israel. No. These students call for the complete elimination of the Jewish state and every single Jew inside of it. They’re calling for a Jewish genocide. Also, she mentioned that the students have been referred to on campus as ‘terrorists.’ These students are openly supporting the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], Hamas, and Hezbollah. They are also regularly terrorizing Jewish students on campus by threatening them and intimidating them. It’s no surprise that Martha Pollack protects the students behind the encampment when $1.8 billion are funneled into Cornell by United States adversaries.