On Friday evening, Harvard President Claudine Gay gave a speech to Harvard Hillel that was adapted in Forward. Gay forthrightly admitted that Harvard has an anti-Semitism problem:
Here in the U.S., we are witnessing a surge in anti-Jewish incidents and rhetoric across the nation — and on our own campus. The ancient specter of antisemitism, that persistent and corrosive hatred, has returned with renewed force.
A recent ADL report found that incidents of antisemitism had almost tripled over the past six years nationally. Here at Harvard, I’ve heard story after story of Jewish students feeling increasingly uneasy or even threatened on campus.
As we grapple with this resurgence of bigotry, I want to make one thing absolutely clear: Antisemitism has no place at Harvard.
For years, this university has done too little to confront its continuing presence. No longer.
I am committed to tackling this pernicious hatred with the urgency it demands.
No one who has paid attention will be surprised, and some will say that Harvard has always been anti-Semitic. But that isn’t true. I went to Harvard Law School in the early 1970s. At that time, the student body was one-third Jewish. I am going from memory and it has been a long time, but my recollection is that around two-thirds of the faculty were Jews, as were the members of the Law Review. I didn’t have much to do with the undergraduate college or the other graduate schools, but I have no reason to think the situation there was different. It was the great age of non-discrimination against Jews–which is to say, the great age of meritocracy.
What changed? Harvard, like most other academic institutions, became obsessed with two demographics: international students and students of color. The last people Harvard was interested in were white Americans, the least likely group to be anti-Semitic.
Harvard, like most other universities, admitted large numbers of international students, including from the Islamic world. They set up centers for these students, as well as degree programs and similar types of centers for the various categories of “BIPOC” students. These programs and centers became hotbeds of radicalism and grievance. The universities sacrificed not only their prior meritocratic standards, but also their commitment to liberal principles, on the altar of diversity.
So if you look at pictures of a pro-genocide rally at Harvard or any other school, what do you see? Mostly, a lot of Middle Eastern students and far-left minorities. Did Harvard seriously not understand that Jew-hatred is rampant among these student groups and is fostered by the programs and institutions that purport to serve them? Or did it just not care?
So, can President Gay succeed in her professed desire to rid Harvard of anti-Semitism? She can if she really wants to, but no doubt she would find the prescription painful. Harvard can get rid of anti-Semitism by no longer admitting students from the Islamic world; terminating grievance-oriented racial programs and centers; and discarding its discrimination-heavy admissions model, so that Jews and Asians are treated equally with other minority students. In short, by recognizing that anti-Semitism is one aspect of the larger sickness of the contemporary university.
But that may be more self-knowledge than Harvard is capable of.