‘Unhelpful’ Harvard Gets ‘Final Warning’ That It Will Face Subpoena, Sanctions If It Persists in ‘Grossly Insufficient’ Responses to House Antisemitism Probe

Harvard shared the minutes from four meetings of the secretive Harvard Corporation that took place in October and November, each of which were summarized with a single sentence.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Representative Virginia Foxx at Washington, October 18, 2023. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Harvard could be subpoenaed if it does not provide documents to Congress relating to its antisemitism investigation by next Wednesday. 

That’s the final warning from Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the Education and the Workforce Committee that is probing Harvard over its alleged failure to tame rampant antisemitism on campus. In a letter sent Wednesday to the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, Penny Pritzker, and the interim president, Alan Garber, the committee asserts that the university’s “grossly insufficient” response to its demands could lead to legal action. 

“This is not surprising, given Harvard’s similarly limited and unhelpful responses to the Committee’s inquiries of Harvard’s handling of allegations of plagiarism by then-President Claudine Gay,” Ms. Foxx said. “If Harvard continues to fail to comply with the Committee’s requests in a timely manner, the Committee will proceed with compulsory process.”

The House committee launched the investigation in December, two days after it grilled Harvard’s president, as well as the heads of the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, over the antisemitism issue. The Harvard and Penn presidents were both soon forced to resign, in part due to their poor performances at the hearing. President Claudine Gay was also buffeted by allegations of plagiarism, which the committee also sought to probe. The probe lost steam after Ms. Gay stepped down under pressure.

Despite being a private organization, Harvard depends on federal grant money for a large portion of its annual budget, and could find it difficult to simply ignore the committee. Ms. Foxx’s committee and the House GOP in general have some leeway over Harvard’s access to federal funds, and Congress in the past has used this club to keep some universities from barring military recruiters from campus or banning ROTC programs.

“If they have people there who care about the institution, who care about its image, then my guess is they’ll cooperate,” Ms. Foxx told the Sun last month. “Harvard should want this.”

The week after the hearing with the university presidents, Ms. Foxx sent Harvard a notice of its information request, which it formalized in a January letter asking for 24 categories of documents and communications to be handed to the committee within two weeks. Ms. Foxx said these requests were “necessary to inform the Committee’s consideration of potential legislation concerning antisemitism at postsecondary institutions.”

Later that month, despite asking for more time to procure the requested materials, Harvard’s legal counsel produced initial documentation consisting of a thousand pages of student handbooks, university rules, and letters from external stakeholders. Ms. Foxx said, though, that these materials “contained numerous bewildering redactions.” 

Harvard also shared the minutes from four meetings of the secretive Harvard Corporation that took place in October and November. Each was summarized with a single sentence. No meeting minutes from the Harvard Board of Overseers and Harvard Management Company, lesser but nonetheless important bodies, were provided. Harvard claims it “has not identified meeting minutes … that relate or refer to antisemitism or the war in Israel or Gaza.”

So far, Harvard has only produced “one document of significance in the Committee’s request,” the letter states. That is a December list of recommended goals and steps to address antisemitism by Harvard’s Antisemitism Advisory Group, which subsequently came under criticism amid reports that its co-chairman, Derek Penslar, a history professor, saw Israel as an “apartheid” state and antisemitism as “exaggerated.”

The New York Sun

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