Northwestern President Won't Commit To Excluding Anti-Semites From Anti-Semitism Task Force

President of Northwestern University Michael Schill (Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)
May 23, 2024

Northwestern University president Michael Schill refused to say he wouldn’t appoint anti-Semites to the school’s committee to combat anti-Semitism during a congressional hearing on Thursday.

Northwestern’s task force to combat anti-Semitism was appointed by Schill last fall in response to concerns about rising anti-Jewish sentiment at the school. The committee was recently disbanded after seven Jewish members resigned in protest over the university's decision to negotiate with anti-Israel protesters.

Schill was questioned by lawmakers about his decision to appoint several members who advocated anti-Israel boycotts, supported the eliminationist "From the River to the Sea" chant, and defended a Palestinian terrorist who murdered college students.

He declined to say he wouldn’t appoint members with similar views to a future committee.

"I will be appointing to the task force that we're going to create faculty, staff, administrators, who I believe are committed to fighting anti-Semitism and as committed to fighting anti-Semitism as I am," Schill told the House Committee on Education and the Workforce during the hearing.

Schill’s response is likely to fuel outrage from Jewish and pro-Israel Northwestern alumni, students, and parents, who have called for the president to resign. It comes after universities across the country struggled to deal with a surge in anti-Semitism this spring. At Northwestern, Jewish students said they were spit on, assaulted, and told to "go back to Germany and get gassed" by anti-Israel protesters.

Northwestern’s anti-Semitism task force was recently thrown into turmoil after seven Jewish members resigned due to concerns about the school’s concessions to anti-Israel demonstrators. Northwestern agreed to numerous trade-offs, including hiring faculty members from the Palestinian territories, in exchange for the protesters agreeing to remove their illegal encampments from university property.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R., Mich.) questioned Schill about several anti-Israel members of the task force who "objected to the committee's very creation in a letter that downplayed anti-Semitism and defended the phrase ‘From the River to the Sea.’"

"Why did you believe it was appropriate to appoint faculty members who have defended and made excuses for anti-Semitism and oppose the committee's purported mission of combating anti-Semitism?" the congressman asked Schill.

Walberg noted that another member of the committee, anthropology professor Jessica Winegar, has been a leader in the anti-Israel boycott movement and "signed a petition defending a Palestinian terrorist [Rasmea Odeh] who murdered two Israeli college students in a bombing."

"Do you acknowledge Professor Winegar is grossly unfit for a committee meant to combat anti-Semitism?" asked Walberg, before pressing Schill to confirm that a "person with her principles will not be on this commission" in the future.

Schill declined to criticize Winegar’s comments or say he wouldn’t appoint members with similar views to the new task force.

"I do not believe in the BDS movement. I am in print against it at my previous university, and I will not be discussing individual faculty members," said Schill.

The Northwestern president also declined to criticize another committee member who is a leader with the school’s Middle Eastern and North African Student Association, a group that released a statement supporting Hamas’s Oct. 7 mass terrorist attacks in Israel.

Schill was testifying alongside Jonathan Holloway, the president of Rutgers University, and Gene Block, chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles.

The House committee has been investigating the spike in anti-Semitism on college campuses in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks and Israel’s defensive war against Hamas.

"In the months following October 7, radicalized students have harassed, assaulted, and intimidated their Jewish peers," said Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.) in her opening statement.

"These anti-Semitic protests have led to hijacking buildings, erecting unlawful encampments, disrupting classrooms, and canceling commencements. They have been the principal agents of anti-Jewish harassment and violence and have made an absolute mockery of so-called university leaders."