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House Republicans Put Muscle on Universities To Shut Down Pro-Palestinian Demos

The House Education and the Workforce committee, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), led the charge today against universities that allow students to demonstrate against the mass killings in Gaza. The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were called to testify. Seven Republican lawmakers, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY), who had graduated from Harvard, issued a letter demanding that Harvard’s first Black leader, Claudine Gay, denounce such campus student groups. Stefanik also called for Gay to resign, though it wasn’t clear whether she needed to denounce the groups first.

Foxx, according to Politico, has called the campus demonstrations “morally reprehensible.” She obtained supporting testimony from Miriam Elman, the executive director of “Academic Engagement Network” (AEN), a group that trains college faculty and administrators to combat anti-Semitism. Elman, described as “a thought leader on the pernicious impacts of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement and other forms of hostility to Israel on college campuses and within academia,” called for the schools to establish task forces with action plans to combat the demonstrations. She suggested that Congress be proactive: “Let’s hold their feet to the fire and make sure that there really is follow through.” It is likely that her articles on “the growing influence of groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow’ movement qualified her for today’s hearing.

The AEN, somewhat curiously, lists freedom of speech as one of its primary concerns.