The embarrassing performance of Liz Magill and her fellow university presidents on the issue of antisemitism may have been enough to force her from her post at UPenn. But it wasn’t bad enough to get a single Democrat in the Delaware Valley’s congressional delegation to vote to condemn it.
Magill, Harvard President Claudine Gay, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth told a House committee last week that “calling for the genocide of Jews” did not necessarily violate their schools’ codes of conduct. That answer inspired an angry backlash, cost the universities millions of dollars in lost donations, and eventually led to Magill’s resignation as president of the University of Pennsylvania.
It also inspired a bipartisan House resolution condemning antisemitism on university campuses and calling for the resignations of Gay and Kornbluth. The resolution easily passed in a 3o3 to 126 vote. But not one of the “yes” votes came from local Democratic Reps. Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, or Mary Gay Scanlon.
Dean and Scanlon voted “no.” Houlahan voted “present.”
Bucks County Republican Brian Fitzpatrick voted “yes.”`
The resolution was introduced by House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) were co-sponsors. Gottheimer and Moskowitz, who are Jewish, had previously demanded the removal of Magill, Gay, and Kornbluth for their testimony.
“The passage of my resolution marks a historic bipartisan effort to stand for moral truth,” said Stefanik, a Harvard alum. “The world is watching as members from both sides of the aisle stand resolutely with the Jewish people to condemn antisemitism on university campuses.”
She also called Magill, Gay, and Kornbluth’s testimony “morally bankrupt.”
The resolution has particular resonance in the Delaware Valley, home of the University of Pennsylvania. The Ivy League school has become a poster child for campus antisemitism across the country. On Magill’s watch, the campus has been the scene of both ugly, antisemitic protests and organized antisemitic events. The school’s unwillingness to address the climate of fear among Jewish students is so troubling that a UPenn funding bill was killed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Wednesday in protest.
“Until more is done at the university in terms of rooting out, calling out, and making an official stance on antisemitism being against the values of the university, I cannot in good conscience support this funding,” GOP House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler said.
Given the circumstances, why would Delaware Valley Democrats refuse to support a resolution condemning antisemitism?
“She fundamentally disagrees that Congress should interfere with the leadership of private universities,” Timothy Mack, a spokesperson for Dean, told DVJournal. “She believes this is the job of the institution, their board of trustees, and the presidents themselves.”
Mack said it would be a “slippery slope” for Congress to get involved in university politics. He added Dean “has a long record of condemning antisemitism in Congress,” including twice this year.
But Dean, a progressive Democrat who often allies with members of the so-called “Squad,” also refused to support a previous resolution in the wake of the Hamas terror attack on Israel, “strongly condemning and denouncing the drastic rise of antisemitism in the United States and around the world.” It passed 311 to 14, with 92 Democrats (including Dean) voting “present.”
Scanlon refused to answer DVJournal’s questions about her vote against the antisemitism resolution. She previously voted “present” or didn’t vote at all on other bills condemning antisemitism in the wake of the Hamas terror attack.
Scanlon also signed a letter last month calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, a move that would have benefitted Hamas.
Houlahan took to social media to explain her refusal to either support or oppose the resolution. She posted that antisemitism “in any form is reprehensible, vile, and intolerable” but said she did not believe that passing another nonbinding resolution did anything. Therefore, she voted “present.”
“We must get all of the work of the people done,” she said. Houlahan is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. “There’s still very little progress in D.C. on the meaningful challenges we face and, sadly, there is every indication that we will go home for the holidays having not addressed any of them — this is unacceptable.”