The Presidents Walk It Back

Yesterday the presidents of Harvard, MIT and Penn provoked outrage when, in the course of testimony before a House committee, they wouldn’t say whether a call for genocide against Jews would violate their universities’ policies. The blowback from donors and alumni must have been nuclear, as today both President Claudine Gay of Harvard and President Liz Magill of Penn released statements recanting yesterday’s testimony:

Actually it was Gay who “confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students.”

Magill released this video apology:


The absurd premise here, which all three presidents implied in yesterday’s testimony, is that the universities’ policies on student conduct are congruent with the First Amendment. That is a ridiculous idea. University policies do not provide that students can do anything that isn’t illegal. That applies to speech, among many other things. If a student wrote in a student paper that all blacks deserve to be murdered, a perfectly legal assertion, he would be gone in the blink of an eye.

So what happened here is that the political biases prevalent in “elite” circles were inadvertently revealed, and, for the moment at least, the real world intruded and the universities scurried for cover.

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