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Cheryl Levi

Codes of Conduct

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Many of us watched New York representative Elise Stefanik get straight to the point with the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania in the congressional hearing.  We were all horrified that none of them would state that calls for genocide against the Jews were against the codes of conduct for their respective universities.  Their answers were weak, defensive, and morally ambiguous.  They showed no respect for the questions they were being asked.  To be honest, most of this congressional hearing went that way.  The presidents were asked about the hate culture on their campuses, the hiring process of antisemitic professors, their approval of antisemitism in their curriculum, and the donations they receive from governments that harbor terrorists like Qatar.  None of their answers were clear and to the point.  They hedged, became defensive, and continuously gave irrelevant formulaic speeches about their own disapproval of antisemitism, islamophobia, and racism of any kind.

Listening to their answers to Representative Stefanik’s questions was like watching a painful episode of Law and Order.  They attempted to legally define free speech in a way that would include calls for genocide of the Jewish race.  They defended these calls with concepts like “context”, “allowing for debates from all points of view”, and “Diversity Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI).

There is much to learn from watching the entire congressional hearing, but one of the questions that has been bothering me was stated perfectly by Bob Good, a representative from Virginia.  He notes that often when people talk about antisemitism they include islamophobia in the conversation, even if islamophobia is not relevant.  In so doing, people are essentially turning the victims into oppressors.  Unsurprisingly, these three university presidents did this in their opening statements.  Bob Good decided to call them on it.  He explains that it is wrong to imply that the problems of antisemitism and islamophobia are equivalent when antisemitism is the “most predominant hate crime in this country today”.  He asked University President Liz Magill if she had seen any evidence of islamophobia since October 7th  at the University of Pennsylvania?  Have there been any large-scale protests in support of the slaughter of Arabs or the extinction of a predominantly Moslem state on her campus?

President Magill started to hedge on her answer, but Representative Good would not allow it.  He repeated his question, forcing her to admit that to her knowledge these types of protests are not taking place.

Bob Good: So, you would agree that it is immoral or dishonest to treat the two as equivalent problems on campus…meaning antisemitism and islamophobia…?

Liz Magill: Congressman…I abhor all acts of hate.

While Magill’s non-answer to the direct question asked of her was unenlightening at best and irreverent at worst, Bob Good’s message was clear.  Antisemitism and islamophobia are not equal problems on campuses or even in America today, and they should not be considered as such.  To do so would be to obscure the terrifying upsurge in antisemitism and to belittle the suffering of Jewish students on campuses.

Another more philosophical exchange took place between representative Tim Walberg of Michigan and Claudia Gay, the president of Harvard.  He began by addressing a claim that President Gay made at the beginning of the hearing.  She said,  ” The cure for antisemitism is knowledge,”

Mr. Walberg suggested that it might be more correct to return to the original motto of Harvard to find the cure for antisemitism: Veritas – Truth.  He said:

“Knowledge is sometimes based on falsehoods.  I think that’s what we are facing right now in the climate on campuses.  We are missing the fact of truth.”

Mr. Walberg criticized the actions of the college presidents.  They have allowed knowledge that is not true to be spread under the guise of free speech.  This false knowledge has had dangerous consequences.

The congressional hearings brought many critical issues to the forefront.  There were discussions about universities behaving as role models to society, the imperative of universities to provide a safe atmosphere for their students, the true origins of hate, the U.S. strategy to counter antisemitism, the balance between free speech and harassment, what constitutes violations of civil rights, and the right for the state of Israel to exist.  The universities were called out to the dangers of their overly progressive behavior, and the hypocrisy of their stance towards free speech.  I don’t know if the government will eventually decide to cut federal funding from these universities, but I do believe these hearings are a good first step towards holding these universities to account.

About the Author
Cheryl Levi is a writer and a high school English teacher who lives with her family in Bet Shemesh, Israel. She has a master's degree in medieval Jewish philosophy and has written numerous articles about faith crisis in Judaism. Her book, Reasonable Doubts, was published in 2010.
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