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Harvard antisemtism

The University has reduced disciplinary sanctions against pro-Hamas protesters who illegally occupied Harvard Yard for nearly five weeks.

By by Dion J. Pierre, Algemeiner

Harvard University has “downgraded” the disciplinary sanctions it levied against several pro-Hamas protesters it punished for illegally occupying Harvard Yard and roiling the campus for nearly five weeks, The Harvard Crimson reported on Wednesday.

The shocking development will likely erase the good will Harvard regained by appearing to embrace an approach to discipline that would deter future unruly behavior as well as the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hate incidents the protesters perpetrated throughout the school year, which damaged the reputation of the institution and prompted a slew of lawsuits and federal investigations.

Per the Crimson, “The most severe probation charge will last for just one semester, a remarkable change from the initial punishments which required at least one student to withdraw from the college for three semesters. Some students who were initially placed on probation in late May also had the length of their probations reduced.”

For a time Harvard University talked tough about its intention to dismantle a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” — a collection of tents in which demonstrators lived and from which they refused to leave unless Harvard agreed to boycott and divest from Israel — protesters had set up on campus, creating an impression that no one would go unpunished.

In a public statement, interim president Alan Garber denounced their actions for forcing the rescheduling of exams and disrupting the academics of students who continued doing their homework and studying for final exams, responsibilities the protesters seemingly abdicated by essentially taking an early summer break to participate in the demonstration.

Harvard then began suspending the protesters following their rejection of a deal to leave the encampment, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Before then, Garber vowed that any student who continued to occupy the section of campus would be placed on “involuntary leave,” a measure that effectively disenrolls the students from school and bars them from campus until the university decides whether they are allowed back.

The disciplinary measures were levied one day after members of Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine (HOOP) created a sign featuring an antisemitic caricature of Garber as Satan, and accused him of duplicity.

During Harvard’s commencement ceremonies in May, reports emerged that some students had been banned from graduation and receiving their diplomas.

However, Harvard, as well as the organization responsible for the encampment, HOOP, always maintained that some protesters would be allowed to appeal their punishments, per an agreement the two parties reached, but it was not clear that the end result would amount to a victory for the protesters.

Unrepentant, HOOP on Wednesday celebrated the revocation of the suspensions on social media and, in addition to suggesting that they will disrupt the campus again, called their movement an “intifada,” alluding to two prolonged periods of Palestinian terrorism during which hundreds of Israeli Jews were murdered.

“Harvard walks back on probations and reverses suspensions of pro-Palestine students after massive pressure,” the group said. “After sustained student and faculty organizing, Harvard has caved in, showing that the student intifada will always prevail … This reversal is a bare minimum. We call on our community to demand no less than Palestinian liberation from the river to the sea. Grounded in the rights of return and resistance. We will not rest until divestment from the Israeli regime is met.”

The news was met with disappointment from Jewish Harvard students and leaders, many of whom have met with lawmakers to discuss their experiences with antisemitism there.

“What?! Harvard reverses the very few suspensions they gave to students who harassed Jews and called for violence,” tweeted Harvard student Shabbos Kestenbaum. “Antisemitic classmates consider this a victory, declaring ‘long live the intifada.’”

The Harvard Jewish Alumni Alliance added, “It’s fine to ignore Harvard’s rules as long as you’re putting Jews in their place … if you’re targeting any other group, you will be disciplined.”

The past year has been described by experts as a low point in the history of Harvard University, America’s oldest and, arguably, most important institution of higher education.

Since the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas across southern Israel, the school has been accused of fostering a culture of racial grievance and antisemitism, while important donors have suspended funding for programs.

In just the past nine months, its first Black president, Claudine Gay, resigned in disgrace after being outed as a serial plagiarist; Harvard faculty shared an antisemitic cartoon on social media; and its protesters were filmed surrounding a Jewish student and shouting “Shame!” into his ears.

According to the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Harvard has repeatedly misrepresented its handling of the explosion of hate and rule breaking, launching a campaign of deceit and spin to cover up what ultimately became the biggest scandal in higher education.

A report generated by the committee as part of a wider investigation of the school claimed that the university formed an Antisemitism Advisory Group (AAG) largely for show and did not consult its members when Jewish students were subject to verbal abuse and harassment, a time, its members felt, when its counsel was most needed.

The advisory group went on to recommend nearly a dozen measures for addressing the problem and offered other guidance, the report said, but it was excluded from high-level discussions which preceded, for example, the December congressional testimony of former president Gay — a hearing convened to discuss antisemitism at Harvard.

So frustrated were a “majority” of AAG members with being an accessory to what the committee described as a guilefully crafted public relations facade that they threatened to resign from it.

Harvard must still tend to outstanding issues which resulted from the events of this past academic year.

A congressional investigation of its handling of antisemitism is ongoing and six Jewish students are suing it for allegedly ignoring antisemitism discrimination.

In April, attorneys representing the school attempted to have the suit tossed out of court, arguing that the plaintiffs lack legal standing.

“Without minimizing at all the importance of the need to address energetically antisemitism at the university, plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with the strategy and speed of Harvard’s essential work does not state a legally cognizable claim,” said the motion to dismiss, as quoted by The Crimson. “Consequently, the amended complaint should be dismissed.”

Shabbos Kestenbaum, one of the plaintiffs in the case, has vowed to see the litigation through to the end.

“Harvard’s meritless motion to dismiss our lawsuit only proves our point: It has never taken the concerns of us Jewish students seriously, and has no plans to start now,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to apply maximum pressure in both the court of law and the court of public opinion … We hope that donors and prospective students follow closely.”

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