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House Committee Subpoenas Harvard Leadership

House Republicans subpoenaed three top Harvard officials on Friday, including interim University President Alan M. Garber and Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker.
House Republicans subpoenaed three top Harvard officials on Friday, including interim University President Alan M. Garber and Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker. By Sami E. Turner
By Emma H. Haidar and Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writers

House Republicans subpoenaed three top Harvard officials on Friday, demanding internal documents and communications for an investigation into the University’s handling of antisemitism on campus.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce issued subpoenas to interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76, Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81, and Harvard Management Company CEO N.P. “Narv” Narvekar, the first time the committee has issued subpoenas to a university.

The escalation came more than two months after the committee first announced an investigation and made good on a weeks-long threat to coerce the University into producing meeting minutes from the governing boards and the Harvard Management Company, the University’s investment arm.

While the subpoenas do not require Garber, Pritzker, or Narvekar to testify before Congress, such a demand could be imposed in the future.

The subpoenas include a request for all meeting minutes from the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers — the University’s highest and second-highest governing bodies — dating back to Jan. 1, 2021. The committee also requested meeting minutes for the Harvard Management Company between Oct. 7, 2023 and Jan. 2, 2024, the day former President Claudine Gay resigned.

Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) wrote in a statement that the subpoenas are a “wakeup call to Harvard.”

“I will not tolerate delay and defiance of our investigation while Harvard’s Jewish students continue to endure the firestorm of antisemitism that has engulfed its campus,” she wrote.

Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in a statement Friday morning that a subpoena is “unwarranted” but said Harvard “remains committed to cooperating with the Committee.”

“Given the breadth and extensive nature of the information Harvard has provided to the Committee, it is unfortunate that the Committee has chosen to issue a subpoena,” Swain added. “Harvard has provided fulsome and good faith responses across ten (10) submissions totaling more than 3,500 pages that directly address key areas of inquiry put forward by the Committee.”

The last submission was made Wednesday, the date of the committee’s final deadline.

In the subpoenas, the committee demanded meeting minutes from the now-defunct antisemitism advisory group formed by Gay, communications relating to Garber’s antisemitism task force, and any reports of antisemitic acts since Jan. 1, 2021.

Swain wrote that the University remains “steadfast in our commitment to combating antisemitism, in whatever form it manifests itself and our ongoing efforts to ensure that Jewish students feel safe, valued, and embraced at Harvard.”

The subpoenas included a request for documents and communications regarding the University’s response to a controversial pro-Palestine letter signed by more than 30 student groups in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, pro-Palestine protests after Oct. 7, the Harvard Palestinian Solidarity Committee’s annual “Israeli Apartheid Week”, and an altercation at an Oct. 18 “die-in” at Harvard Business School.

The committee also ordered Harvard to produce communications regarding Sidechat posts made by Harvard affiliates “targeting Jews, Israelis, Israel, Zionists, or Zionism,” documents about allegations of antisemitism against Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Marshall L. Ganz ’64, and documents since Jan. 1, 2021 regarding disciplinary action taken against Harvard affiliates for “conduct involving the targeting of Jews, Israelis, Israel, Zionists, or Zionism.”

The subpoenas require the documents to be produced by March 4.

While Friday’s demands are not significantly different from the committee’s previous voluntary requests for documents, subpoenas are enforceable.

It is unclear if Harvard will decide to fight the subpoenas, a move that would result in a prolonged battle with the committee and could even lead to the House voting to hold Garber, Pritzker, and Narvekar in criminal contempt of Congress.

The subpoenas, however, were a clear signal that House Republicans are intent on exerting an unprecedented level of oversight of colleges and universities during a presidential election year.

The decision to subpoena Harvard also raises the possibility that the leaders of Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania — the other universities under investigation by the committee — could face subpoenas of their own.

Stanley M. Brand, an attorney who previously served as general counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, said in a Jan. 24 interview with The Crimson that even after issuing a subpoena, congressional committees are limited in their ability to enforce it.

“The ways in which they enforce them are arduous, long, and drawn-out proceedings in court under the contempt statute,” said Brand, who has also represented congressional witnesses for almost 50 years.

“They can huff and puff and say ‘we’re going to hold you in contempt,’ but that takes months, if not years to bring to fruition,” he added.

The subpoenas informed Garber, Pritzker, and Narvekar that they must “produce all responsive documents that are in your possession, custody, or control, whether held by you or your past or present agents, employees, and representatives acting on your behalf.”

“You also should produce documents that you have a legal right to obtain, that you have a right to copy, or to which you have access, as well as documents that you have placed in the temporary possession, custody, or control of any third party,” the committee wrote.

While the subpoenas do not include a prior request from the committee for text messages and members of the administration and governing boards, the demand for internal communications and meeting minutes could offer more insights into how the University has approached handling its leadership crisis.

Paul Reville, a professor of education policy and administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said in a Jan. 24 interview that the committee’s previous requests “in the view of some people border on harassment from Congress and other sources who clearly have an agenda to undermine universities like Harvard.”

Foxx, however, insisted that Congress had to take these actions when Harvard did not do enough to combat antisemitism on campus.

“If Harvard is truly committed to combating antisemitism, it has had every opportunity to demonstrate its commitment with actions, not words,” Foxx wrote in the Friday press release.

Swain wrote that Harvard had sent more than 3,500 pages of documents to the committee, which includes 1,o00 pages of material submitted to the committee in response to its review of plagiarism allegations against former Harvard President Claudine Gay.

In a statement announcing the subpoenas, Foxx wrote that 40 percent of documents submitted in relation to campus antisemitism were publicly available. She previously accused the administration of trying to obstruct the investigation by not fully complying with all of the committee’s document requests.

“In its most recent response, Harvard failed to make substantial productions on two of four priority requests and its productions on the remaining two priority requests contain notable deficiencies, including apparent omissions and questionable redactions,” Foxx wrote on Friday.

The University has made 10 submissions to the committee over the course of two months, including providing the committee with details about meetings by the Corporation and private recommendations made by Gay’s antisemitism advisory group in the fall.

What the University does and does not submit in the coming weeks will determine how much the public sees about its decisions in the months following Oct. 7.

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at emma.haidar@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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