Harvard, MIT’s Failure To Discipline Anti-Israel Aggression Will Inflame Antisemitism on Campus, a Hedge Fund King, Bill Ackman, Warns

The Harvard alumnus’s exhortation comes after anti-Israel protestors blocked Jewish and Israeli students from attending class at MIT. 

AP/Andrew Harnik
Bill Ackman at the Economic Club of New York November 12, 2019. AP/Andrew Harnik

The absence of punitive measures against students who bully and assault Jewish students at Harvard and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in violation of campus protocol, will lead to even more antisemitism, a famed hedge fund manager and Harvard alumnus, Bill Ackman, asserts.

“The failure of Harvard, MIT and other universities to discipline protesters who violate their rules emboldens the protesters to more aggressive, disruptive and antisemitic actions,” Mr. Ackman wrote in a post on X Friday. “This has created a climate of fear that is not conducive to a university education.” 

Mr. Ackman was among the first of Harvard’s patrons to assert that he would not hire students who signed the now-infamous letter assigning sole responsibility for Hamas’s heinous acts to Israel. As antisemitic rhetoric has intensified into physical threats, university claims about free-speech protections or pending police and FBI investigations, Mr. Ackman said, are “absurd.” 

The lack of punitive measures for students carrying out antisemitic abuse on college campuses, Mr. Ackman warned, could embolden white supremacists to protest on campus. He pointed to the elite schools’ “hypocrisy and double standards” in their treatment of abusive behavior against Jewish students, which he highlighted using a comparison to sexual assault. 

“Imagine if a female student were sexually assaulted by five male Jewish students and it was captured on multiple videos,” Mr. Ackman said. “Would Harvard wait for the conclusion of an FBI and police investigation or would it suspend the students involved pending the outcome of the investigation?” 

Mr. Ackman’s post was in response to a statement by MIT’s Israel Alliance and its supporters, which states that Jewish and Israeli students were unable to attend class on Thursday due to an anti-Israel demonstration in the school’s main lobby building not far from Harvard’s campus. 

The “blockade” was organized by the MIT Coalition Against Apartheid, “a hostile group of pro-Hamas and anti-Israel students” who called for a violent uprising, “Intifada,” the letter explains. The CAA, which describes itself as “in opposition to colonialism, imperialism, and apartheid in Palestine and beyond,” also harassed MIT staff members in their offices, the letter alleges, “for being Jewish” and interrupted classes in recent weeks. 

The Israel Alliance admonishes the administration for choosing to warn students to not enter the campus building occupied by the CAA “mob” rather than dispersing the mob itself. “The onus to protect Jewish students should not be on the students themselves,” the letter asserts. It was shared on X by a MIT professor, Retsef Levi, who wrote: “This is the reality that MIT President wants to hide.”

The blockade appears to have violated the school’s guidelines on campus activism, distributed by the vice chancellor and dean for student life, Suzy Nelson, on Wednesday. “You may not disrupt living, working, and learning spaces at MIT, and you may not interfere with students’ ability to study in peace or with any other aspect of MIT’s educational mission,” Ms. Nelson warned. Students who fail to comply, she said, will be referred to the school’s discipline committee. 

MIT has yet to academically suspend the CAA students, though the administration issued such a threat if the crowd did not immediately disperse. That came in the form of a letter to students four hours into the demonstration on Thursday. 

The Israel Alliance noted that the blockade took place on the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, a series of pogroms by Nazi leaders against the Jewish population in Germany and its annexed territories. “We are seeing history repeating itself,” the students wrote, “and Jews on MIT’s campus are afraid.”

Meanwhile, at Harvard, President Claudine Gay shared updates on Thursday to the school’s new Antisemitism Advisory Group. The group will include prominent faculty from Harvard’s various professional schools, who will work with alumni, students, and leaders of Harvard’s Jewish community “to ensure the physical, as well as psychological, safety of all members of our community.” 

One of its measures to confront antisemitism on campus includes the founding of an “Inclusion and Belonging Student Leadership Council” with “broad representation” from the Jewish community. These plans follow Ms. Gay’s speech at a shabbat dinner at Harvard Hillel, in which, the Sun argued, “she erroneously conflated Israeli civilians killed by Hamas terrorists with Palestinian civilians killed in Israeli self-defense operations.”

Mr. Ackman said on X that he will respond to the email statement released by Ms. Gay by Monday. 

The New York Sun

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