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House grills university leaders over ‘antisemitism’ at school protests

(NewsNation) — University presidents on Thursday faced a barrage of questions from House members over their schools’ handling of what some have called antisemitic acts during pro-Palestinian protests on campus.

Leaders from the University of California, Los Angeles, Rutgers University and Northwestern University, attended Thursday’s hearing at the U.S. Capitol, where lawmakers grilled the college’s presidents about disciplinary action tied to recent protests over the Israel-Hamas war. 

Outside the Capitol, other House members spoke out against the treatment of student protesters, including police handling of the situation.

The hearing included several tense moments as Republicans on the House Committee of Education and the Workforce were on the offensive, arguing school administrators failed to keep students, particularly Jewish students, safe from harassment during nationwide protests. 

One particular point of contention that many Republicans raised was that two administrations, those from Rutgers and Northwestern, negotiated with protest leaders. Republicans called those negotiations a dereliction of administrators’ duties. 

University presidents said they were in a tough spot, trying to protect First Amendment rights and free speech while keeping students safe. 

Republican committee members, however, argued the schools missed the mark. 

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., has been one of the main faces of the Republican committee members’ efforts. 

During an exchange with Northwestern University President Michael Shill, Stefanik asked whether a Jewish student was assaulted. 

Shill replied, saying there were reports that a Jewish student was assaulted, and the claims are currently under investigation by the school’s conduct and Title XI offices. He was unsure when the investigation might conclude. 

“That’s why you get an F,” Stefanik said. 

Shill acknowledged that Northwestern University’s code of conduct does need to be updated to meet some of the challenges they were presented with during the protests. 

Lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, however, argued universities didn’t go far enough to protect protesters

They say students engaging in the protests had a legitimate First Amendment right to do so, and that they also were subjected to violence. 

“This is not about protecting minority communities — that in itself has historically been prosecuted,” U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said. “It is an attempt to silence everyone who expresses dissent of Israel and the genocide they are currently carrying (out) in Gaza.” 

Some members of Congress were in the middle, noting that university administrations have a tough job balancing free speech and safety. Others have called for the leaders to resign.  

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