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Task Forces on Antisemitism, Islamophobia Announce Listening Sessions for Harvard Undergraduates

The Dean of Students Office is located in University Hall. The DSO emailed students Friday inviting them to listening sessions with Harvard's dual presidential task forces on antisemitism and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias.
The Dean of Students Office is located in University Hall. The DSO emailed students Friday inviting them to listening sessions with Harvard's dual presidential task forces on antisemitism and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias. By Sharleen Y. Loh
By Michelle N. Amponsah and Joyce E. Kim, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard’s dual presidential task forces to combat antisemitism and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias will hold a series of listening sessions for undergraduate students over the next two weeks, according to a Friday morning email from the Dean of Students Office.

The task force on antisemitism also invited graduate and undergraduate affiliates of Harvard Chabad, a Jewish campus group, to a private dinner and discussion on their experiences with antisemitism on Monday.

The efforts to solicit perspectives from students represent the first public push from the twin task forces, which got off to a rocky start after being launched by interim President Alan M. Garber ’76 in January.

Garber’s appointment of History professor Derek J. Penslar as co-chair of the antisemitism task force drew national backlash over concerns that he downplayed antisemitism on campus. Late last month, Harvard Business School professor Raffaella Sadun resigned as Penslar’s co-chair over concerns that the University would not implement the task force’s recommendations.

Sadun was replaced by Harvard Law School professor Jared A. Ellias.

The two task forces have also come under scrutiny from congressional Republicans who have accused Harvard of failing to protect Jewish students and crack down on antisemitic speech.

The announcement of the listening sessions came one day after the House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to Garber demanding information on the antisemitism task force — including the circumstances surrounding Penslar’s appointment and Sadun’s resignation — and threatening Harvard’s tax-exempt status.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce — which subpoenaed Harvard leadership in February as part of its investigation into antisemitism on campus — also requested information on the antisemitism task force as part of its lengthy demands for documents.

Garber has relied on the dual task forces as he attempts to defy critics and prove that Harvard is capable of combatting hate on campus.

The two groups — whose members and advisers include faculty and staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and attorneys and administrators — are charged with providing recommendations to administrators on steps to address bias.

The task force on anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias is co-chaired by Harvard School of Public Health professor Wafaie W. Fawzi, Harvard Kennedy School professor Asim Ijaz Khwaja, and Middle Eastern Studies professor Ali S.A. Asani ’77.

Attendees at the listening sessions will abide by the Chatham House Rule — an agreement that participants can share the information they received but will not reveal the identity of the speaker — in order to foster a “safe, respectful, and confidential environment.”

Students also have the option of sharing thoughts with the task forces via anonymous feedback forms.

The task force listening sessions are grouped by residential neighborhoods across eight sessions. The sessions hosted by the antisemitism task force will take place from March 25 to March 28, while the sessions hosted by the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias task force will take place from April 1 to April 4.

—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at michelle.amponsah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X at @mnamponsah.

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at joyce.kim@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X at @joycekim324.

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