Harvard Ignored Its In-House Anti-Semitism Panel and Failed To Address Student Harassment, Congressional Report Finds

Incidents of anti-Semitic harassment on Harvard campus were elevated to school's top brass but left unaddressed

Protesters (harvardoop Instagram), Alan Garber (
May 16, 2024

Harvard University failed to implement a sweeping set of recommendations from its in-house Antisemitism Advisory Group (AAG) and turned a blind eye to numerous instances of campus harassment even after they were raised with the school's leadership, according to a congressional report.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce—which is investigating Harvard and a number of other elite institutions for failing to stem an explosion of anti-Semitic fervor on campus—discovered several cases of anti-Semitic harassment on campus that were elevated to the school's top administrators but ultimately left unaddressed.

The report, which is based on interviews with AAG members and reams of internal documents produced under subpoena, show that Harvard's top brass was alerted in real time as far back as October 2023 to an escalating series of anti-Semitic incidents on campus that left Jewish students fearing for their lives. These sources include documentation of a yarmulke-wearing student being "spat on" and others being chased across campus by anti-Israel mobs. Harvard's leaders, including interim president Alan Garber, were repeatedly informed about these incidents but failed to initiate investigations or hold students accountable, the committee determined.

The findings paint a troubling picture for the Ivy League school, which has spent more than six months fighting accusations that it is unable and unwilling to combat the growing tide of anti-Semitism on campus. In interviews with the House committee, AAG member Dara Horn made clear that "direct harassment of Jewish students was a bigger problem than antisemitic chants at public rallies," according to the report.

After joining the AAG, Horn said, "It became more clear to me that the real issue was less about what was going on at a public rally, or what kind of slogans that were being used. That wasn't really the issue. The issue was direct harassment of Jewish students on campus. And that was of grave concern to me."

In a Nov. 20 meeting, just over a month after Hamas's Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel that sparked the campus protest movement, AAG members gathered to discuss "three disturbing incidents of antisemitic harassment that appear to have gone without discipline," according to the report, which cites notes taken at the time by advisory group members.

AAG members recounted how one visibly Jewish student "was spat on," an incident that was reported to Harvard's police department "and other channels."

"He and his partner seem terrified, people don't feel comfortable wearing a yarmulke or kippah," the note states. A separate incident raised during the meeting detailed how a student "was chased back to House, followed and steamed at." This student reported avoiding campus dining halls "because [of being] scared." It's "clear this is affecting academic decisions, participation in activities," the notes state. In a third instance, an Israeli student was ejected from class by a professor after being asked "where she was from."

Horn, in her interview with House investigators, said that it "became clear to us later that Israeli students were being harassed and ostracized by their peers and, in some cases, by faculty."

In each of these instances, the report shows, the students did not receive answers from Harvard after reporting their concerns, and there is no documentation to show the school ever disciplined the perpetrators.

"Not only did these incidents inform the AAG about the severe nature of antisemitic harassment on Harvard's campus but they also revealed to the AAG that the Harvard institutions that should have protected all students' rights to a non-hostile educational environment failed Jewish students," the House committee determined in its report.

In a subsequent AAG meeting, Harvard's leadership was informed how "power structures" at the school have "contributed to antisemitic harassment and the University's handling of complaints by Jewish students, highlighting that authority figures such as teaching assistants and faculty were engaging in such behavior."

Members of the advisory panel expressed concern that professors and teaching assistants were engaging in anti-Semitic protests and, in other cases, singling students "out for [their] ethnic background," according to another set of notes published by the House committee.

On Oct. 13, 2023, just days after Hamas's attack, Harvard College dean Rakesh Khurana and then-president Claudine Gay were alerted to "additional evidence of a terrifying atmosphere for Harvard's Jewish students."

"Harvard college students and affiliates are openly calling to bring the 'Intifada'—a violent uprising against Israeli civilians—to Cambridge, openly threatening Harvard Hillel, openly suggesting that people 'gas all the Jews' and 'let em cook' (this post had 25 net upvotes), openly saying 'gotta get em all,' 'get got or leave,' and 'violence is the only answer' all in reference to the murder of Jewish civilians," according to an email chain from the time that was sent to the school's leadership.

One student at the time reported being "followed in the streets" and alerting college administrators to numerous instances of anti-Semitic harassment that were never addressed.

"I do not understand what steps the university is taking to prevent these students who want to kill us from taking action," the student wrote. "These threats are coming from other Harvard college students."

Again, these incidents were reported to Dean Khurana and to the associate dean for inclusion and belonging. "However, Harvard's attorneys have to date been unable to identify any disciplinary actions the University took in response to these incidents," the House committee reported.

Parents also reported instances of anti-Semitic bullying, with one informing Gay and Harvard's police department about an incident "in which her son was chased by a Harvard University employee, including information identifying the perpetrator."

Like the other incidents, "attorneys have to date been unable to identify any personnel or disciplinary actions the University took in response to the incident."

The AAG's numerous recommendations to address mounting anti-Semitism on campus were never ultimately implemented, even though Garber was present at every meeting, the report found.

"The failure to implement the AAG's advice did not come from a lack of engagement by Harvard's seniormost leaders," the report says. "Harvard's then-Provost and current Interim President Alan Garber attended and led each AAG meeting."

The anti-Semitism task force issued its recommendations in December 2023, as the campus protest movement was picking up speed, suggesting Harvard's leadership has been dragging its feet for more than five months.

The AAG members "identified numerous issues of concern for action to Harvard's leaders," including the "need to share more information on disciplinary outcomes publicly."

This process remains shrouded in mystery, even after two students who assaulted an Israeli class member last year were hit with criminal charges. Harvard has declined to comment on the incident or say if it initiated disciplinary action against those charged. The school also will not say if the students are eligible to receive their degrees amid the judicial proceeding, the Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday.

A Harvard spokesman disputed the committee's findings and accused it of selectively publicizing internal documents that were provided by the school in "good faith."

"It is disappointing to see selective excerpts from internal documents, shared in good faith, released in this manner, offering an incomplete and inaccurate view of Harvard's overall efforts to combat antisemitism last fall and in the months since," Harvard spokesman Jason Newton said in a statement to the Free Beacon. "Across its submissions and its ongoing work across our community, Harvard has demonstrated its focus and commitment and attentiveness to combating antisemitism, and these efforts are reflected in the many voluminous submissions to the committee."

Newton also provided the Free Beacon with a document detailing efforts the school says it has put in place to address anti-Semitism and protect its Jewish population. He did not respond to additional Free Beacon questions about the House committee's determination that Harvard repeatedly failed to investigate anti-Semitic incidents and discipline the perpetrators.

These failures ultimately led many AAG members to consider resigning from the panel.

"A majority of the AAG threatened to resign over concerns about the inadequacy of Harvard's response to antisemitism and a lack of clarity on the AAG's charge and future work," according to the report. The group also "had limited engagement with the deans of Harvard's various schools."

After months of review by the House committee, it determined that "the AAG provided significant recommendations to Gay, Garber, and other leaders that could have had a real impact in combating antisemitism at the University and restoring a safer environment for Jewish students. However, Harvard's leaders failed to implement these recommendations."

Meanwhile, Harvard has come under fire in recent weeks for engaging in negotiations with anti-Israel protesters who established an unlawful encampment on campus.

Earlier this week, Harvard leaders announced an agreement with student protesters that reinstates at least 22 students from involuntary leaves of absence that were issued as a result of their behavior. The Ivy League school will also treat protest leaders with leniency and expedite disciplinary proceedings for more than 60 students charged over their involvement with the encampment. Anti-Israel agitators will also be granted a meeting with Harvard's governing board to discuss potential divestment from Israel.