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Magill, Gay Are Gone, but Issue of Campus Antisemitism Lingers

The fallout from campus antisemitism that claimed the job of former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill is far from over, as evidenced by the ouster of Harvard’s Dr. Claudine Gay.

Gay resigned as president of Harvard University on Tuesday (though she will keep her $900,000 annual paycheck as a tenured professor), less than a month after Magill was forced out at Penn. Both Gay and Magill, along with Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth, received heavy criticism over their performance during a congressional hearing on antisemitism on their campuses. None of the three would say that “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated their schools’ code of conduct. Gay infamously claimed it depended on the “context.”

Major donors to all three schools either reduced their contributions or cut them off entirely in response.

Magill stepped down without much drama, publicly accepting her fate. Not so with Gay, the first Black woman to serve as Harvard’s president. She claimed to be a victim of racism-fueled, trumped-up charges of plagiarism.

“It has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor—two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am—and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus,” she said in her resignation statement. “These last weeks have helped make clear the work we need to do to build that future—to combat bias and hate in all its forms, to create a learning environment in which we respect each other’s dignity and treat one another with compassion…”

In fact, Gay’s minimal academic output — only a handful of published papers during her career — was riddled with nearly 50 examples of either “inadequate citations,” as her Harvard defenders called it, or outright plagiarism. “In a 2001 article, Gay lifts nearly half a page of material verbatim from another scholar, David Canon, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin,” the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Now, some members of the Jewish community are concerned that the plagiarism issue will take the spotlight off what they see as the far more serious problem of antisemitism on America’s elite college campuses.

“The problems at Harvard have been years, if not decades, in the making,” Jeremy Burton, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, told Jewish Insider. “Whatever your opinion about Gay’s decision to step aside and how that came about, we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we pretend that this in any way moves us closer to resolving the root problems with the campus environment at Harvard.”

Many members of Congress agree. Magill and Gay’s responses to the “genocide of Jews” questions inspired a bipartisan House resolution heaping scorn on antisemitism on university campuses. That resolution easily passed 303 to 126 last month. However, none of the “yes” votes came from local Democratic Reps. Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, or Mary Gay Scanlon.

Scanlon and Dean voted “no,” while Houlahan voted “present.”

Bucks County Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick voted “yes.”

Penn has emerged with a reputation as one of the most antisemitism-friendly campuses in the U.S., and its problems are far from over.

Penn is being sued in federal court by two Jewish students who claim it has become an “incubation lab for virulent anti-Jewish hatred, harassment and discrimination.” That includes claiming pro-Palestinian protesters called one student “a dirty Jew” and said, “You know what you’ve done wrong.” The suit also accuses Penn faculty of “deliberate and targeted harassment” of Jewish students.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives killed a bill last month that would have funded Penn’s veterinary school.

House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) sent a letter to Penn leadership explaining that Magill’s resignation and a new antisemitism task force are great starts, but there’s more to be done.

“The task force’s initial report will be due in February, and the final report will be issued in May,” he wrote. “That time frame does nothing to bring about immediate change. It will not help students currently enrolled in the university experiencing this abhorrent form of hate, and it will be too late for students currently deciding whether to attend Penn.”

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EDELBLUT: We Have Not Served Our Students Well

The tragic circumstances unfolding in Israel cannot be overstated.

Mankind has a long and often unpleasant history in which the innocent suffer under the tyranny of the worst of humanity – corruption, power, brutality, cruelty, meanness, and more.

A shocking but not unexpected reaction to these events has unfolded on college campuses.

The knee-jerk reaction of 31 Harvard student organizations unquestioningly sided with Hamas, despite evidence of human atrocities. Harvard was not alone. Across the country, students from higher education learning institutions, including Penn, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, City University of New York, Tufts, and Portland State University, to name a few, came out in unquestioned support of Hamas.

That college students would organize a protest to make their voices heard is to be expected. What is shocking is the content of these protests.

USA Today, reporting on these campus developments, stated, “It’s hard to wrap your mind around: The social justice warriors on college campuses around America have come out in support of terrorists who last weekend raped and murdered and beheaded innocent people (including children, women and the elderly) in Israel.” In another post at the University of Washington, students were chanting, “There is only one solution. Intifada Revolution,” perhaps not fully recognizing or understanding the meaning and force of those words as calling for genocide against Jews.

Part of the shock associated with this student response is the apparent inability to think critically about a very complex circumstance with a very long history. In a reductionist approach, there must be an unquestioned binary of “good guys” versus “bad guys.” In tribalist rhetoric, atrocities committed by “our side” must be overlooked.

This binary perspective is in complete conflict with other cultural developments in which these same individuals insist that the issues are complex and nuanced.

For many years, people have been making observations and writing about the liberal indoctrination of college students by socialist progressives infiltrating campuses. Newsweek reported, “Dissent from, or even a lack of enthusiasm for, woke ideology is no longer tolerated on campus.” The Hoover Institution reported, “The politicization of higher education by activist professors and compliant university administrators deprives students of the opportunity to acquire knowledge and refine their minds.”

While the developments on college campuses are concerning, in and of itself, it does not tell the whole story.

How is it that bright-eyed, anxious, and aspiring freshmen arrive on campus so vulnerable to these progressive ideologies? What, if any, preparation in their secondary high school experience prepared them with critical thinking skills to be able to objectively evaluate these global developments?

The circumstantial evidence seems strong. It is unlikely that these students only started their journey – or slide – to an inability to think critically when they arrived on campus. That process began well before socialist, progressive professors began cultivating their liberal ideology. A recent Education Week article titled “Students Are Easily Duped Online. We Can Teach Them Better” touches on this subject.

It is quite possible that these students missed something substantive before they arrived at college – critical thinking skills. Either that or the same inculcation of progressive ideology affecting them once they reached college was initiated before they ever arrived. Canary Mission, a group that tracks “people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel, and Jews” across the political spectrum, reported that “… 38 percent of the kinds of people who once marched around campus chanting about decolonization go on to teaching careers.”

In either case, we have not served these students well.

We have not served them well if their post-secondary college experience narrows their worldview and makes them see atrocities of rape, murder, and beheading of children, women, and the elderly as acceptable under any circumstances. We have not served them well when all they have is a post-modern perspective that there is no absolute truth and that even rape, murder, and beheading have a place in society. We have not served them well if we have not equipped them to help, serve, and love others, even those with whom they do not agree and may even vehemently disagree.

Secondary and post-secondary education has lost its way when it narrows students’ world by teaching them what to think rather than how to think.

Educators should reflect on the role they may have played in bringing students to a place where human atrocities do not evoke horror.

The unsettling response of students from across the country to the unfolding events in the Middle East shows that, for too long, this has been the case. We have not served our students or our country well.

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