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US university presidents face firestorm over evasive answers on antisemitism

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U of Pa. president Liz Magill

The presidents of three of the nation’s top universities are facing intense backlash, including from the White House, after they appeared to evade questions during a congressional hearing about whether calls by students for the genocide of Jews would constitute harassment under the schools’ codes of conduct.

In a contentious, hours-long debate on Tuesday, the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sought to address the steps they were taking to combat rising antisemitism on campus since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. But it was their careful, indirect response to a question posed by the Republican congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York that drew scathing criticism.

In an exchange that has now gone viral, Stefanik, a graduate of Harvard, pressed Elizabeth Magill, the president of UPenn, on Tuesday to say whether students calling for the genocide of Jews would be disciplined under the university’s code of conduct. In her line of questioning, Stefanik appeared to be conflating chants calling for “intifada” – a word that in Arabic means uprising, and has been used in reference to both peaceful and violent Palestinian protest – with hypothetical calls for genocide.




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