newsSchools & Higher Education

Lawyering up doesn’t address Jew-hatred on campus, House Ed Committee chair says

Universities look to preserve their tax-exempt status and avoid political embarrassment, as two House committees continue to investigate antisemitism on campuses.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, signs a March 8, 2024 letter to MIT alongside Jewish MIT graduate student  Talia Khan. Credit: House Education and the Workforce Committee.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, signs a March 8, 2024 letter to MIT alongside Jewish MIT graduate student Talia Khan. Credit: House Education and the Workforce Committee.

American universities are hiring lawyers, lobbyists and public relations firms as the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the U.S. Department of Education investigate schools for Jew-hatred, and amid student and alumni lawsuits over antisemitism on campus.

Stanford University, Cornell University and the University of Notre Dame are among schools that have hired outside lobbying firms, hoping to avoid further congressional scrutiny, including efforts to strip the tax-exempt status from universities that fail to protect Jewish students, in the wake of a Dec. 5 hearing of the committee, Politico reported

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the committee, said that schools are misspending that money.

“Universities hiring more lawyers doesn’t do a thing to address antisemitism on campus,” Foxx told JNS. “It’s an effort to protect the institutions, not the students.”

“It sounds like these institutions need to reevaluate their priorities,” she said.

Foxx’s committee is investigating antisemitism on U.S. college campuses after Oct. 7. It has requested documents and information from Columbia, Rutgers and Harvard universities; the University of Pennsylvania; and the University of California, Berkeley. The committee has sought information about antisemitic incidents on campus and what policies and procedures university administrations have put in place to protect Jews. 

The committee is scheduled to hear testimony from Columbia’s president and board co-chairs on April 17.

“Ensuring the safety of every student on campus is what the committee’s investigation is founded on,” Foxx told JNS. 

Another House committee is also investigating universities over Jew-hatred, and multiple U.S. senators have introduced legislation along similar lines.

The House Ways and Means Committee, which has taxation oversight, sent letters in March to Cornell, Harvard, Penn and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of its investigation into antisemitism on campus. The committee questioned whether the universities continue to deserve tax-exempt status.

“Given the disappointing and lackluster responses by your respective universities to Hamas’s attacks and your subsequent failure to adequately protect Jewish students from discrimination and harassment, we question whether your institutions are satisfying the requirements to receive these benefits,” wrote Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), the committee chair.

“These specific incidents add to ongoing concerns that ‘elite’ American universities are failing to provide instruction beneficial to individuals or the community and are instead instructing students to have disdain for the United States and the very communities they live in,” Smith added.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced the “Woke Endowment Security Tax Act,” which imposes a one-time, 6% tax on the endowments of the 10 richest U.S. universities to fund aid to Israel, Ukraine and the U.S. southern border, on Dec. 12. (The bill, which has no cosponsors, was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.)

On Jan. 11, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and John Fetterman (D-Pa.) introduced the “Protecting Students on Campus Act of 2024.”

The bill, which has drawn four other co-sponsors—two Democrats and two Republicans—enhances reporting efforts on civil rights violations on campus, including against Jews. It came “amid rising antisemitic incidents and attacks on college campuses in the aftermath of Hamas’s deadly attacks on Israel,” Cassidy stated.

Pursuing campus antisemitism also seems to be a winner with political donors, Politico reported.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who asked some of the most pointed questions to the three college presidents at the Dec. 5 education committee hearing, raised $7 million in the first quarter of 2024—more than in any previous quarter of her career. (Stefanik has taken credit for the resignations of the presidents of Harvard and Penn.)

Her donations were driven in large part by Jewish donors, including World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder and billionaire investor Marc Rowan, according to Politico.

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