Web Stories Thursday, April 25

Jewish students at major universities told lawmakers on Thursday they feel unsafe on campus amid a surge in antisemitism.

At a roundtable hosted by the House Education and Workforce Committee, students from Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other schools described hearing violent chants on campus and complained administrators are not doing enough to fight antisemitism.

“In the past five months, I have become traumatized,” said Talia Khan, a second-year graduate student at MIT.

Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent outbreak of conflict in Israel and Gaza has stoked tension on college campuses across the nation. Both Jewish and Muslim students have said they’ve experienced an uptick in hate speech and harassment on campus.

Khan, graduate student president and co-founder of the MIT Israel Alliance, said MIT has become “overrun with toxic antisemitism” and by “terrorist supporters that directly threaten the lives of Jews on our campus.”

“It is not overly dramatic to ask that something be done when our very existence is under threat,” Khan said.

An MIT spokesperson told CNN that the incidents Khan brought up “are known to us, with some already addressed and others being addressed.”

The spokesperson said the university has, in some cases, taken disciplinary action against students who have committed antisemitic acts. MIT is also “responding with an array of educational steps.”

“These efforts are well underway and ongoing,” she said.

Khan referred to statement like that as “lip service” in the hearing.

Eden Yadegar, a junior at Columbia University, described how Jewish students were attacked by people wielding sticks outside of the university library, and how she has been mocked on campus as well as on social media.

“We have been attacked by sticks outside our library. We have been attacked by angry mobs and we have been threatened to ‘Keep f—ing running,’” said Yadegar, president of Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University

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Columbia spokesperson Samantha Slater said in a statement to CNN that antisemitism is “antithetical” to the university’s values.

“We are using every available tool to keep our community safe and that includes protecting our Jewish students from antisemitic discrimination or harassment,” Slater said. “Maintaining a safe, civil, inclusive, and respectful campus environment is always a core priority for the University administration and never more so than at present.”

Hannah Beth Schlacter, an MBA student at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, accused the university of fostering an environment where Jewish students are not given equal opportunity to learn and participate in activities.

Schlacter described the difficulty she and a fellow student faced getting help from the university’s police force after the student reported being spit on and called a “dirty Jew” during an on-campus protest.

“When you do not call out hate against Jews based on shared ancestral identity, that sends the message to other students on campus that it is okay, socially acceptable, tolerated behavior to actively hate Jews on campus,” she said.

Earlier in the week, protesters disrupted an event by banging on and shattering glass doors to the auditorium where Israeli Defense Forces soldiers were scheduled to speak, videos posted on social media show. The university’s chancellor published a statement on Tuesday condemning the violent protests that took place the prior day.

“I did not go to class Tuesday,” Schlacter said. “How could I when Berkeley will not protect us from a riot?”

The university launched a criminal investigation into “all that happened on Monday night,” Dan Mogulof, a UC Berkeley spokesperson, told CNN.

“What happened on Monday night has no recent precedent on campus and we understand that we are now in new territory that demands changes in how we operate in support of student safety and well-being, and their right to hear and express any perspectives or beliefs they wish,” Mogulof said.

Since last fall, the House Education Committee has been investigating campus antisemitism, focusing on how Ivy League universities are combating hate.

The committee held a hearing in December questioning the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania about antisemitism. The testimony was so disastrous that within weeks, the presidents of both Harvard and UPenn had stepped down.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, the Republican chairwoman of the committee, has demanded UPenn, Harvard and Columbia turn over documents to aid her committee’s investigation. Foxx has accused Harvard of “obstructing” the investigation by failing to turn over various documents.

Earlier this month, her committee took the unprecedented step of issuing multiple subpoenas to Harvard, compelling the school to produce documents by March 4. It’s the first time the committee has ever issued a subpoena to a university since it was founded in March 1867.

In November, the Department of Education launched an investigation into Columbia and other schools after receiving complaints about alleged incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

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