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House Committee Issues Final Warning to Harvard, Threatens Subpoena Over Investigation Submission

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce threatened Harvard with a subpoena and accused it of "obstructing" the committee's investigation in a Wednesday letter.
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce threatened Harvard with a subpoena and accused it of "obstructing" the committee's investigation in a Wednesday letter. By Miles J. Herszenhorn
By Emma H. Haidar and Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writers

Updated February 7, 2024, at 6:54 p.m.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce issued a final warning on Wednesday for Harvard to fully comply with its request for documents and communications related to its investigation into antisemitism on campus.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the committee, wrote in a Wednesday letter to interim President Alan M. Garber ’76 and Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 that “the Committee is prepared to issue a subpoena” if the University does not fully comply with the request.

Foxx accused Harvard of “obstructing” the committee’s investigation into campus antisemitism in the letter and warned the University that if it does not provide the committee with the requested documents and communications — including emails and text messages between members of the Corporation relating to antisemitism — within a week, the committee will issue a subpoena.

The committee requested a lengthy list of formal documents and informal communications from the University in a Jan. 9 letter, although it initially announced an investigation into antisemitism at Harvard on Dec. 7, two days after former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s controversial testimony in Congress.

Harvard responded by providing more than a thousand pages of publicly available documents on University statements, court cases, and letters from nonprofit organizations, which Foxx previously said was “woefully inadequate.”

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in a statement Wednesday evening that Harvard was “cooperating with the Committee’s inquiry and has provided extensive information.”

“We have made eight submissions, including one on Monday, in connection with their inquiries, and plan another submission for Friday,” Newton wrote. “We have had frequent conversations with the Committee and intend to continue responding to their requests as we receive them.”

Republicans on the House Committee of Education and the Workforce have sought to put pressure on Harvard since it became embroiled in controversy following the University’s initial response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The committee is also investigating the University’s response to allegations of plagiarism against Gay.

Foxx’s letter on Wednesday also revealed some previously undisclosed information about the Corporation’s response to the crisis facing Harvard since October.

The Corporation met at least four times in October and early November, which has not been previously reported. Foxx wrote that the University provided “a single identical sentence” describing three meetings in October as including “discussion of recent developments on campus and in the broader University community related to the war in Israel and Gaza.”

The University’s minutes from a Nov. 6 meeting of the Corporation — while heavily redacted — said Gay initiated a discussion “centered on the continuing campus impacts of the war in Israel and Gaza” over lunch, according to the letter.

Harvard also sent the committee a set of recommendations drafted in late December by an advisory group on antisemitism established by Gay. Foxx wrote that the document, provided by the University Feb. 2, was the only “document of significance” in its submission thus far.

“Harvard’s responses have been grossly insufficient, and the limited and dilatory nature of its productions is obstructing the Committee’s efforts,” Foxx wrote.

“This is not surprising, given Harvard’s similarly limited and unhelpful responses to the Committee’s inquiries of Harvard’s handling of allegations of plagiarism by then-President Claudine Gay,” Foxx added.

The letter, which condenses the list of requested materials, asks for meeting notes from Harvard’s governing boards since Oct. 7, all communication relating to antisemitism, documents concerning disciplinary procedures, as well as documents relating to Garber’s presidential task force on antisemitism.

Foxx wrote Harvard has not submitted any meeting minutes from the Harvard Management Company or the Board of Overseers — the University’s second-highest governing body — relating to antisemitism or the war in Israel and Gaza.

According to the letter, the University told the committee that “after a reasonable search and review to date, Harvard has not identified meeting minutes in connection” with the request.

“The Committee’s requests did not contain any limitations of scope justifying these omissions and redactions, as it requested ‘all…meeting minutes and/or summaries, whether formal or informal’ within specified date ranges,” Foxx wrote.

“Given the publicly documented antisemitism on Harvard’s campus, especially since the October 7 attacks, it would be shocking if the Board of Overseers and Harvard Management Company thought protecting Harvard’s Jewish students was so insignificant that the topic was not worthy of discussion at a single meeting,” she added.

The warning comes as House Republicans are facing their own leadership crisis of sorts as Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas or pass a stand-alone military assistance bill for Israel during a series of embarrassing votes on Tuesday.

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.), the fourth-ranking House Republican and a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has served as one of the University’s most vocal critics in Congress.

While Stefanik was one of the first to call for Gay’s resignation, she has vowed to continue the committee’s investigation into Harvard after Gay stepped down from the presidency.

“Our robust Congressional investigation will continue to move forward to expose the rot in our most ‘prestigious’ higher education institutions and deliver accountability to the American people,” Stefanik wrote at the time.

—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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Central AdministrationHarvard CorporationFront FeatureAlan GarberBoard of OverseersFront Middle FeatureFeatured ArticlesClaudine GayCongressIsrael PalestineLeadership Crisis