The woke ideologies that govern academia enable the antisemitism that the heads of Harvard, Penn and MIT refuse to say breaks their rules.

It was a very bad week for the presidents of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania. But as much as the discomfort and job security of the trio of academic bureaucrats put on the spot by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) during a congressional hearing on antisemitism on college campuses is a focus of interest, no one should think what they now say or what happens to them is of critical importance.

On the contrary, the viral video of their appalling testimony is merely a symptom of the problem plaguing America’s educational establishment and the rest of society. It is the toxic ideologies that have created these three pathetic examples of university leaders without a moral compass that we should be worried about, not their individual fates. As long as the schools they lead, and as long as most other such institutions—whether considered among the country’s “elite” schools or not—remain captured by the woke mindset that has made critical race theory and intersectionality the prevailing orthodoxy, antisemitism there will be a given.

To The New York Times and others on the left, the predicaments of Harvard’s Claudine Gay, MIT’s Sally Kornbluth and Penn’s Liz Magill were a “prosecutorial trap”—one into which they fell headlong.

The question of genocide

Throughout the hearing, while most of the Democrats lobbed softballs at the representatives of these schools, Stefanik and other Republicans had been pressing them to account for the rampant targeting of Jewish students on their campuses since the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7. Stefanik had tried to get them to admit that pro-Hamas chants for “intifada”—an invocation of the Palestinian terror campaign that cost the lives of more than 1,200 Jews—was evidence of calls for violence that breach these institution’s rules against bullying and harassment. So, when she asked them whether calls for Jewish genocide constituted a violation of college policies, she expected them to say “yes” and then to follow up with questions about their failure to enforce those regulations.

Instead, the trio answered in a lawyerly fashion, saying that it depended on the “context” of the slurs or if such language turned into actual conduct. When given opportunities to clarify and give a clear “yes” or “no” answer, they prevaricated—sometimes with arrogant contempt for the questions in the case of Gay or nervous smiles by Magill. The point of the questions was to highlight the failures of these schools to protect Jewish students while they coddled and encouraged the mobs on their campuses that have been harassing their peers while chanting for the destruction of the one Jewish state on the planet. Even Stefanik was surprised that presidents of some of the most prestigious universities in the country were at that moment more worried about being accused of taking sides against antisemitic students, whose vile behavior is being cheered on by so many among the administrators and faculty.

While it’s true that even hateful speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, schools are not required to tolerate such behavior on their private campuses.

Within 24 hours, both Gay and Magill backtracked, with the latter posting a groveling apology video on social media that did nothing to salvage her reputation. Indeed, a day before Penn’s Board of Trustees was scheduled to meet virtually to discuss what had become a crisis for the university’s reputation, Magill submitted her resignation.

Yet as foolish as their performance was, Stefanik shouldn’t have been surprised. Indeed, no one should have been, even if their testimony became an embarrassing viral moment that prompted condemnation not just from Jewish organizations and liberal academics, but from the White House and many Democratic politicians that Gay, Magill and Kornbluth might have assumed would side with them.

Though the controversy has generated criticisms from donors and in the case of Magill, led to her resignation, what Stefanik exposed was not just the trio’s lack of preparedness and their inability to grasp how their institutional blindness to antisemitism appears to those outside of the leftist bubble in which they live. Instead, it was a moment that revealed the moral corruption that now exists at the heart of academic discourse. It’s the product of these institution’s adoption of woke ideology that falsely labels those smearing Israel—calling it an “apartheid state” that needs to be “decolonized”—as laudable idealists, and considers those who defend it as racists and “white supremacists.”

A clarifying moment