WATCH: Harvard President Claudine Gay Defends Calls For 'Intifada Revolution' as Free Speech

December 5, 2023

Harvard president Claudine Gay defended students' calls for the destruction of the Jewish people as "free speech" that did not constitute bullying or harassment.

"Will ... any disciplinary action be taken against students or applicants who say 'from the river to the sea' or 'intifada' or advocate for the murder of Jews?" Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) asked Gay on Tuesday morning during a House Education Committee hearing intended to address the rise in anti-Semitism on campuses.

"As I've said, that type of hateful, reckless, offensive speech, it is personally abhorrent to me," Gay responded.

Stefanik pressed her on why students had not faced disciplinary action for using these chants, which she said advocate "genocide against the Jewish people."

"We embrace a commitment to free expression even of views that are objectionable, offensive, and hateful," Gay said. "When speech crosses into conduct that violates our policies, including policies against bullying, harassment, or intimidation, we take action."

The House Education Committee questioned university leaders from Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the hearing.

UPenn's president Liz Magill, in response to questioning by Democratic Rep. Susan Wild (Pa.), echoed Gay's position.

"The chanting, I think, calling for intifada, global revolution, very, very disturbing," Magill said, adding "at a minimum, that is hateful speech."

But "whether it rises to the level of incitement to violence," she said, is a "much more difficult question."