Harvard Press Announces New Council Amid Protests

Harvard University President Claudine Gay has unveiled plans to establish an advisory council aimed at combating antisemitism on campus. The announcement comes after weeks of intense criticism regarding the university’s response to the Israel-Hamas conflict that erupted on October 7.

In her remarks during the Harvard Hillel Shabbat Dinner, Gay acknowledged the rise in anti-Jewish incidents and rhetoric across the nation and on the university’s own campus. She stated that she had heard numerous accounts of Jewish students feeling increasingly uneasy or threatened, emphasizing the need for swift and decisive action against this form of hatred.

“As president, I am committed to tackling this pernicious hatred with the urgency it demands,” Gay affirmed. She also highlighted the historical presence of antisemitism at Harvard, acknowledging the university’s past failure to confront this issue adequately. However, she asserted that this would change.

Gay disclosed that a group of advisors, including faculty, staff, alumni, and religious leaders from the Jewish community, will spearhead efforts to eradicate antisemitism from the Harvard community. These advisors will collaborate with Gay, Provost Garber, and the school deans to develop an agenda and strategy for combating antisemitism within the university.

Harvard has faced severe criticism in recent weeks, primarily stemming from a statement issued by the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups, signed by 34 student organizations. The statement initially placed blame on the “Israeli regime” for the “unfolding violence” that transpired following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Gay’s initial response, released shortly after the attack, condemned Hamas’ actions but did not explicitly denounce the controversial opinions expressed by the student groups. This response was met with further criticism.

In a subsequent video message, Gay clarified that while Harvard does not “punish or sanction” individuals for expressing polarizing views, it does not imply the university’s endorsement of such views.

The aftermath of these developments witnessed the withdrawal of job offers from a top law firm to students affiliated with the student organizations. Several prominent donors severed their ties with the university, and former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan retracted his participation in Harvard’s fellowship programs. These reactions underscore the complex and challenging nature of addressing issues surrounding antisemitism, free speech, and polarizing viewpoints on college campuses.

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