Congressional Leaders Weigh Options To Punish Universities That Tolerate Antisemitism on Campus

Senator Scott’s bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, adding language that would restrict federal funds to any schools that authorize, facilitate, provide funding for, or otherwise support events promoting antisemitism on campus.

AP/Meg Kinnard
Senator Scott during a town hall, April 30, 2023, at Charleston. AP/Meg Kinnard

An increasing number of American lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to cut off federal funding or impose other financial penalties on colleges and universities that tolerate or even encourage antisemitic statements or demonstrations on their campuses.

Presidential hopeful Tim Scott joined the chorus Thursday by introducing legislation in the Senate that would block such schools from receiving Title IV funding from the Department of Education, which includes most federal student aid. The South Carolina senator says his Stop Antisemitism on College Campuses Act would hit the universities “where it hurts — their pocketbooks.”

“Any university or college that peddles blatant antisemitism, especially after Hamas’ brutal attack on Israeli civilians, women and children, has no place molding the minds of future generations, never mind receiving millions of taxpayer funds to do so,” Mr. Scott said. “We must not only call out this hate, but crush it wherever it rears its ugly head.”

“No college or university should receive a single cent from the federal government to fund violent antisemitism,” he added in a statement

Joining Mr. Scott in backing the bill are a number of other Republican senators, including Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, Katie Britt from Alabama and John Cornyn from Texas. A New York Republican congressman, Mike Lawler, has introduced similar legislation in the House.

As written, the bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, adding language that would restrict federal funds to any schools that “authorize, facilitate, provide funding for, or otherwise support any event promoting antisemitism on campus.” The bill uses a definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Campuses across the United States have been rocked by competing demonstrations both for and against the state of Israel since the deadly Hamas attacks on October 7. Some of the demonstrators have openly expressed their sympathy with Palestinians in Israel and the Hamas terrorists who lord over the Gaza strip. Many of the colleges have been abandoned by donors unhappy with administrators’ tepid response to the brutal attacks.

Mr. Scott’s legislation comes one day after Congressman Jason Smith, the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said Congress should reexamine the tax-exempt status of several high-profile universities that have tolerated antisemitism on their campuses in recent days. 

“To say I am disgusted by statements of support for Hamas that we’ve seen in recent days is an understatement,” Mr. Smith said. “Celebrating, excusing, or downplaying the horrific rape, torture, and murder of innocent people is the same thing as supporting violence, or even calling for it. Releasing such statements, or failing to condemn them, is unforgivable and runs counter to our values as a nation.”

Mr. Smith cited a statement from student groups at Harvard University blaming Israel for the war, statements from students at the University of Virginia citing the “right of colonized people everywhere to resist the occupation of their land by whatever means they deem necessary,” and another from students at the University of California at Berkeley in support of the Palestinian “liberation movement” as examples of the sort of antisemitism that need to be reined in.

“University administrators have weaponized their institutions to attack speech and free inquiry as ‘violence,’ yet fail to condemn actual violence that threatens our way of life all while their institutions enjoy lucrative federal tax-exempt status,” Mr. Smith said. “Congress and the American people will not forget on what side these institutions stood the day the largest number of Jewish people were killed since the Holocaust, and they must be held to account for their implicit, vile support of Hamas terrorists and violence against the people of Israel.”

The New York Sun

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