‘Words Matter’: Harvard President Apologizes For Comments In Hearing On College Campus Antisemitism

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Hailey Gomez General Assignment Reporter
Font Size:

Harvard president Claudine Gay apologized for her remarks regarding Jewish students during a Tuesday congressional hearing, stating “words matter,” according to The Harvard Crimson. 

In a Thursday interview with The Harvard Crimson, Gay told the school paper she not only regrets her recent comments but that “violence” and “threats” against Jewish students “have no place at Harvard.”

“I am sorry,” Gay told The Crimson. “Words matter.”

“What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged,” Gay told The Crimson. (RELATED: Rabbi Quits Harvard’s Antisemitism Committee, Citing ‘Evil’ Ideological Capture: REPORT)

Top Ivy League university leaders from Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania spoke at a Tuesday congressional hearing regarding the rise in antisemitic behavior on their respective campuses since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel. In an exchange with Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, Gay’s ending testimony went viral for her response to whether calling for the “genocide of Jews” violated the school’s “bullying and harassment” code.

“At Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment?” Stefanik questioned.

“It can be, depending on the context,” Gay stated.

Although Gay was pressed to give a straight answer to the congresswoman, she continued to state that “context” mattered.

While many donors have already cut ties with the Ivy League school, the fallout has continued to grow in response to the incident. With the House Committee on Education and the Workforce announcing an official investigation into the alleged antisemitism on Harvard’s campus, a newly hired rabbi announced his leave from the school, according to The Crimson. (RELATED: Plane Flies Over Harvard Campus Reading ‘Harvard Hates Jews’)

Rabbi David Wolpe resigned from an advisory group established only weeks prior to combat the apparent hatred of Jews on the campus. He stated that “ignoring Jewish suffering is evil” as he called out Gay’s testimony. 

“[T]he system at Harvard along with the ideology that grips far too many of the students and faculty, the ideology that works only along axes of oppression and places Jews as oppressors and therefore intrinsically evil, is itself evil,” Wolpe tweeted.

“Ignoring Jewish suffering is evil. Belittling or denying the Jewish experience, including unspeakable atrocities, is a vast and continuing catastrophe. Denying Israel the self-determination as a Jewish nation accorded unthinkingly to others is endemic, and evil.”

Harvard Hillel (a center for Jewish student life) president Jacob M. Miller additionally called out Gay’s response in a letter joined by a Crimson Editorial editor and Hillel campus Rabbi Getzel Davis. They stated that Gay’s response failed to “properly condemn” the antisemitic speech on campus, according to The Crimson.

“President Gay’s failure to properly condemn this speech calls into question her ability to protect Jewish students on Harvard’s campus,” the Hillel’s leaders stated, according to the school’s outlet. “President Gay’s testimony fails to reassure us that the University is seriously concerned about the antisemitic rhetoric pervasive on campus.”