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Harvard University under investigation, president to testify about response to Israel-Hamas war

Harvard University president to testify about response to Israel-Hamas war
Harvard University president to testify about response to Israel-Hamas war 02:32

CAMBRIDGE - Harvard University President Claudine Gay will testify in front of the Congressional Committee on Education and the Workforce in Washington D.C. next week regarding the college's response to student sentiment and safety around the Israel-Hamas war.

The hearing is set for Tuesday, December 5 at 10:15 a.m. and will cover antisemitism on U.S. college campuses.

"We've seen countless examples of antisemitic demonstrations on college campuses. Meanwhile, college administrators have largely stood by, allowing horrific rhetoric to fester and grow," said Republican Chairwoman Virginia Foxx. "College and university presidents have a responsibility to foster and uphold a safe learning environment for their students and staff."

At the same time, Harvard was added to the list of academic institutions nationwide under investigation by the Department of Education for its handling of student reactions to the conflict in the Middle East. According to the Department of Education's website, these schools are "under investigation for alleged shared ancestry violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), which prohibits race, color, or national origin discrimination, including harassment based on a person's shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics."

Harvard has faced backlash from students, faculty, and donors about its at-times vague statements about the conflict, disappointing all sides.

Free speech expert and Harvard Law graduate Harvey Silverglate tells WBZ that the college president - Claudine Gay, who is new to her position - has made critical mistakes in her response to this conflict. "The job of a university is to provide a safe environment where students can speak, and students can listen," Silverglate said. "Universities [should] not have political positions on anything." 

Instead, Silverglate says Harvard's president has "waffled" in her response to the conflict and the school's support which has upset all stakeholders. "I don't think the waffling is defensible," he said.

Silverglate tells WBZ he offered to meet with Gay when she first started to prepare for potential free speech conflicts on campus - like he had with past Harvard presidents - but her office declined the invitation.

In front of Congress next week, Silverglate believes "she should think about what she should've done, what she should now say, and if it means confessing error, she should have the guts to do that. I think it's what she has to do."

In a statement to WBZ regarding the Department of Education investigation, a Harvard spokesperson said, "We support the work of the Office of Civil Rights to ensure students' rights to access educational programs are safeguarded and will work with the office to address their questions." 

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