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US Education Dept to Probe Harvard for Bias Against Muslim Students, Congress Looks In To Obstruction of Anti-Semitism Investigation 

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US Education Dept to Probe Harvard for Bias Against Muslim Students, Congress Looks In To Obstruction of Anti-Semitism Investigation 

Edited by: Fern Sidman

Harvard University finds itself embroiled in controversy as a congressional committee investigating campus anti-Semitism accused the prestigious institution of obstructing its inquiry. According to a report in the New York Times, Representative Virginia Foxx, Chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, slammed Harvard for its perceived lack of cooperation, threatening to exercise subpoena power to compel the submission of requested documents.

Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, criticized Harvard’s response as “limited and dilatory,” citing the university’s failure to provide meaningful documents despite repeated requests. As was reported in the NYT, in a scathing letter addressed to Harvard, Foxx expressed frustration over the university’s handling of the investigation, highlighting “inexplicable” redactions in publicly available pages.

Harvard, however, maintains that it has been cooperative and forthcoming in its interactions with the committee. Jason Newton, a Harvard spokesman, asserted that the university has provided extensive information in the eight submissions made thus far and intends to continue cooperating with the inquiry, according to the information provided in the NYT report. He emphasized Harvard’s commitment to combating anti-Semitism on campus and ensuring the safety and well-being of its students.

The congressional scrutiny comes in the wake of allegations that Harvard, along with the University of Pennsylvania and M.I.T., failed to adequately protect Jewish students, faculty, and staff members from incidents of anti-Semitism. The report in the NYT pointed out that the committee’s decision to investigate followed a contentious hearing where university presidents grappled with hypothetical scenarios involving calls for the genocide of Jews on campus.

The investigation has added to the ongoing conflict and uncertainty at Harvard, particularly following the resignations of Claudine Gay, Harvard’s former president, and M. Elizabeth Magill, the former president of the University of Pennsylvania, the report added. Sally Kornbluth of M.I.T., whose response to the hypothetical scenario was deemed more direct, remains in her position.

The obstruction claims by Foxx and the committee’s investigation have further intensified the scrutiny faced by Harvard, particularly as it navigates its first semester following Dr. Gay’s resignation. Additionally, the university is under investigation by the Department of Education over allegations of anti-Semitism and discrimination against Palestinian students.

In early January, Foxx issued a “final demand” to Harvard, instructing the university to submit a trove of documents in 24 specific categories. As per the NYT report, the ongoing standoff underscores the heightened tensions surrounding the investigation and raises questions about Harvard’s commitment to transparency and accountability in addressing allegations of anti-Semitism on campus.

 

The Education Department launched an investigation into allegations of Harvard’s failure to protect Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab students and their supporters from harassment, threats, and intimidation. The probe comes amidst ongoing turmoil at the prestigious institution, exacerbated by controversies surrounding its response to the Israel-Palestine conflict and subsequent events.

The Muslim Legal Fund of America, which filed the civil-rights complaint prompting the new investigation, cited numerous instances of harassment and intimidation faced by over a dozen students, the NYT report said. According to Christina A. Jump, a lawyer for the group, students were subjected to threats and derogatory remarks, including being labeled as terrorists, simply for wearing keffiyehs, a traditional Palestinian scarf. The report in the NYT said that additionally, some students were doxxed and intimidated, only to have their concerns dismissed by Harvard administrators.

Allegations suggest that Harvard administrators prioritized meetings with donors and alumni over addressing student grievances, with some donors allegedly encouraging the harassment. While specific individuals were not named in the complaint, Chelsea Glover, another lawyer on the case told the NYT that the university’s focus should be on safeguarding the rights of current students rather than appeasing wealthy donors with personal agendas.

In response to the investigation, Harvard issued a statement affirming its support for the Office for Civil Rights of the Education Department’s efforts to uphold students’ rights to access educational programs. As was indicated in the NYT report, the university highlighted several measures taken to address the concerns, including outreach to students who received online threats, collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, and the establishment of a task force dedicated to combating Islamophobia.

As the investigation unfolds, Harvard faces mounting pressure to address systemic issues of harassment and discrimination within its student body. The outcome of the probe will not only shape the university’s response to the allegations but also have broader implications for its commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students, regardless of their background or beliefs.

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