Harvard leaders accused of obstructing antisemitism investigation

Congressional committee has accused them of failing to comply with a subpoena


Supporters of Palestine gather at Harvard University to show their support for Palestinians in Gaza at a rally in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 14, 2023. Thousands of Palestinians sought refuge on October 14 after Israel warned them to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip before an expected ground offensive against Hamas, one week on from the deadliest attack in Israeli history. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

The leaders of Harvard could face contempt proceedings after the chairwoman of a Congressional committee accused them of failing to comply with a subpoena for documents on antisemitism.

Virginia Foxx said that while Harvard had turned over a trove of documents by the Monday deadline many were “useless” and others were duplicates of documents previously submitted.

The Republican said that her House Education Committee is now “weighing an appropriate response to Harvard’s malfeasance.”

“Harvard has absolutely failed to comply in good faith with the Committee’s subpoena for information about antisemitism on its campus,” she said.

“I don’t know if it’s arrogance, ineptness, or indifference that’s guiding Harvard. Regardless, its actions to date are shameful.”

Criminal contempt is one of three options Congress can pursue to enforce its subpoenas. Each count of criminal contempt carries a minimum 30 days in jail and a maximum of one year as well as a fine of $100,000.

Another option is civil contempt; asking a court to enforce a congressional subpoena.

Inherent contempt is the rarest option. It would involve asking the House or Senate sergeant-at-arms to detain or imprison the person found in contempt.

The subpoena was issued after Harvard ignored the committee’s request for documents.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, said: “This is more proof that Harvard and the Harvard Corporation Board Members know that they are in deep, deep legal trouble for their failure to protect Jewish students on campus and their subsequent cover up.

“The absolute egregious and entitled malfeasance of Harvard in failing to fully comply with the subpoena will not be tolerated.”

The subpoena was issued on February 16 to Alan Garber (Harvard’s interim president), Penny Pritzker (leader of Harvard’s governing board) and N.P. Narvekar (CEO of the Harvard Management Company).

Harvard spokesperson Jason Newton said: “Harvard denounced antisemitism on our campus and have made clear that the University will continue to take actions to combat antisemitism in any form.

“This includes ongoing efforts to engage with and learn from students, faculty and staff to identify the causes of antisemitic behaviours and address them when they occur on our campus.”

The university has insisted that it is responding to the inquiry in good faith.

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