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5 Members of Harvard’s Antisemitism Advisory Group Threatened to Resign, House Committee Says

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce released a report on Claudine Gay and the antisemitism adviory group Thursday as part of its investigation into antisemitism at Harvard.
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce released a report on Claudine Gay and the antisemitism adviory group Thursday as part of its investigation into antisemitism at Harvard. By Julian J. Giordano
By Emma H. Haidar and Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writers

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce released a 42-page report Thursday morning that detailed an internal battle between former Harvard President Claudine Gay and the antisemitism advisory group she established in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The report, released as part of the committee’s investigation into Harvard, revealed that five of the advisory group’s eight members threatened to resign en masse less than 10 days after Gay announced the group’s formation.

“The goals and steps outlined in the document are meaningful recommendations that would have had a substantial impact on Harvard’s antisemitism problem had they been implemented,” the report stated. “Unfortunately, Harvard’s leaders failed to follow the roadmap drawn for them by their own chosen experts.”

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton criticized the committee’s report as “an incomplete and inaccurate view of Harvard’s overall efforts to combat antisemitism last fall and in the months since.”

“It is disappointing to see selective excerpts from internal documents, shared in good faith, released in this manner,” Newton wrote. “Harvard has demonstrated its focus and commitment and attentiveness to combating antisemitism, and these efforts are reflected in the many voluminous submissions to the committee.”

The report relied heavily on submissions to the committee from the University, which included the previously unreleased recommendations from Gay’s advisory group, and a transcribed interview with Dara Horn ’99, a member of the group.

While the committee’s report comes more than four months after Gay’s resignation, interim University President Alan M. Garber ’76 emerged relatively unscathed. While Horn expressed frustration with the formation of Garber’s task forces to combat antisemitism and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias, the committee report almost entirely focused on Gay and her response to the advisory group’s recommendations.

Gay did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

The resignation warning, sent on Nov. 5, included a series of ultimatums from the five members who demanded that Gay publicly condemn certain slogans chanted by pro-Palestine student protesters, ban masked protests on campus, and launch a confidential investigation into the Harvard Medical School’s dean of students for allegedly not confronting antisemitism at an event he attended.

The threat, alongside the series of demands, prompted Gay and Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 to call an emergency meeting with the advisory group on Nov. 6, in which Gay sought to persuade the group to not resign en masse.

“Areas of common ground have come attached with an ultimatum, one that if interpreted literally leaves me with 24 hours and puts me and the University in a terrible position,” Gay told the group, according to a transcription of the meeting published in the committee’s report.

“You serving is to be helpful, and you’re trying to be helpful; resigning en masse if you don’t get these things in 48 hours would be explosive, and would make things even more volatile and unsafe,” she added.

Gay, however, made clear concessions to the group following the emergency meeting.

Just three days after the emergency meeting, Gay sent a University-wide email that explicitly condemned the use of the phrase “from the river to the sea” by pro-Palestine protesters and announced the University would implement antisemitism training and education for Harvard affiliates.

Members of the group were also frustrated that the scope of their responsibilities remained vague, weeks into the formation of the task force. At the Nov. 6 meeting, Gay told the group she apologized for “not giving you my time that you deserved” and for “thrusting” the advisory group into the roles “before they were defined, staffed, and supported,” according to the meeting minutes.

Horn said that the advisory group soon began to hear from many Jewish students reporting instances of antisemitism, but lacked clear direction from Gay and the administration.

The advisory group reported that there were Jewish students who said they were afraid to eat in Harvard dining halls, followed home and harassed, and at least one who had been spat on for wearing a yarmulke.

Some of the report’s harshest criticisms of the University stem from the Harvard administrators allegedly not implementing the advisory group’s recommendations.

Newton wrote that Harvard’s “community and campus are different today because of the actions we have taken, and continue to take, to combat hate and to promote and nurture civil dialogue and respectful engagement.”

“Harvard has and will continue to be unequivocal – in our words and actions – that antisemitism is not and will not be tolerated on our campus,” he added.

The advisory group’s recommendations included reevaluating the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging and “investigating the potential influence of ‘dark money’ from Iran, Qatar and associates of terrorist groups on campus.”

A member of the advisory group was concerned that the organization American Muslims for Palestine – which they characterized as an entity “linked to terror finance” – funded the “PalTrek” that brought Harvard affiliates to visit the West Bank and “was involved” in the Arab Conference at Harvard in April.

Garber said that the Office of the General Counsel would look into the funding and the OGC later reported “no issues were identified.”

The committee did not specify how Congress will proceed with its investigation of antisemitism at Harvard and other college campuses, but the report indicated that the committee is not done with Harvard just yet.

“The Committee will continue investigating the activities happening on campus at Harvard and at other universities, including the responses by university administrations to recent unlawful campus encampments,” the committee wrote.

—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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