Opposition to H. Res. Condemning Antisemitism on University Campuses

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 14, 2023
Location: Washington, DC
Keyword Search: H Res 927


Ms. McCOLLUM. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H. Res. 927.

Let me be clear--I condemn antisemitism on our university and college campuses in the strongest possible terms. If I thought this resolution was a good faith effort to combat antisemitism, I'd support it. Regrettably, that is not the case.

Like many of my colleagues, I was disappointed by the testimony provided by the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn. Calling for genocide is dangerous and intolerable, and the presidents should have used their time in front of the Education and Workforce Committee to explicitly condemn attacks against the Jewish community and affirm their commitment to protecting Jewish and Arab students experiencing hate. Those private institutions are now deciding how to proceed with their leadership and make amends for their offensive statements.

This resolution does nothing to address the problem of antisemitism on campuses. Instead, House Republicans are once again using Jewish pain to score political points. There are many ways that Congress can address the rise in hate--for example, implementing President Biden's National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. Or, instead of cutting $35 million from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights that protects Jewish students on campus, they could join Democrats in fully funding the office. This resolution fails to do either, and instead of funding these important initiatives, the House Republican majority is continuing to hide behind empty words--and actions speak louder than words. I uphold and include in the Record the comments made by my colleague, The Honorable Jamie Raskin (MD-08) made on the House Floor on December 13, 2023.

For these reasons, I must oppose the resolution.

* Remarks by Rep. Jamie Raskin per the United States House of Representatives Congressional Record, Volume 169. Issue 205, December 13, 2023.

Mr. RASKIN. Mr. Speaker, I rise to oppose this resolution which, to my knowledge, would mark the first time in American history that the House of Representatives would vote to tell private college and university presidents to resign. I want all of my colleagues to think very seriously about what this means for us today and in the future.

We are all profoundly disturbed by the resurgence of anti- Semitism and racism in campus towns, including death threats, serious death threats against Jewish students at Cornell, and actual shootings and attempted murder of three Palestinian- American students in Burlington, Vermont.

We all want to express our outrage in House resolutions, which we have done more than 20 times as a House of Representatives, and numerous times even since October 7. For example, on November 2, we passed H. Res. 798, which condemned all forms of anti-Semitism on college campuses, denounced any support for terrorist groups on campus, reaffirmed the free speech rights of Jewish students and faculty, and urged enforcement of Federal civil rights laws to protect Jewish students against anti-Semitism.

Why do we need this resolution? The only thing new about it is it would have the U.S. House of Representatives call specifically for the resignation of two college presidents, a call that has been slipped in at the bottom of page 2 of the resolution.

This extraordinary passage comes close to being what the Constitution calls a bill of attainder, which is the unconstitutional imposition by Congress on a specific citizen or citizens of a criminal punishment or stigma by the Congress itself. Although this resolution is not a criminal punishment or stigma against specific citizens, it is undoubtedly a civil punishment and stigma against specific American citizens.

How many of you would like the president of the college where you went or where your children go to be walking around with a congressional resolution telling them to resign?

Everyone knows that this will be an academic scarlet letter and a professional death sentence for anyone carrying it around. Does anyone think that UPenn President Liz Magill, who has already resigned in the face of Ms. Stefanik's ceaseless campaign to force her out, will ever be able to find another college presidency? Give me a break.

Now, I hold no brief for the college presidents' overly legalistic, ethically tone-deaf answers awkwardly advanced in response to Ms. Stefanik's rapidfire, yes-no questions. It should not be difficult for anybody to say in an age of rampant gun violence and lax Republican gun laws, which have put tens of millions of AR-15s in circulation in our society, anyone calling for genocide of the Jews, or anyone else, should be sent immediately a campus security detail to see if they pose the risk of harm to other people or if they need an immediate mental health exam. If there is not an imminent threat, surely the call for genocide of the Jews by definition constitutes a hostile learning environment and should occasion aggressive disciplinary action.

Where is the common sense on the part of the college presidents? Where is the common sense in the Congress of the United States of America?

Calling for the resignation of private individuals at private universities would be a dramatic and unprecedented departure for the U.S. Congress, which has never before voted to tell a college president to resign.

Before we affix this lifelong stigma, reproach, and dishonor on a private citizen, do you think perhaps we should offer them some kind of due process, the kind of due process that even George Santos got and that Donald Trump is getting all over America right now for his 91 Federal and State felony charges?

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Meuser). The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia.

Mr. RASKIN. Mr. Speaker, should Harvard President Claudine Gay, who is the first Haitian American ever to serve in that position, and Sally Kornbluth, who is Jewish, get the chance to explain what they are actually doing to combat racism and anti-Semitism at their schools and what they have done in their lives and in their careers to oppose anti-Semitism and racism, which are the gateways to destruction of liberal democracy? Do we care about that, or is this just a bunch of drive-by talking points?

Is it relevant that the Harvard and MIT boards have made unanimous statements affirming the leadership of their two college presidents? Are we saying that their boards don't matter or they are indifferent to anti-Semitism and the leaders of the Freedom Caucus knowbetter than the Jewish president of MIT what anti-Semitism is?

Now I know these two were the presidents testifying before Ms. Stefanik, but are we sure that these two are even the worst in the country when it comes to bias and discrimination? Is this a one-shot deal, or, as Ms. Stefanik promises, is this just the beginning? Are we going to go through all of the college and university presidents in America? What about the CEOs of the businesses? Maybe they are not performing to her satisfaction either.

Indeed, maybe there are college presidents who have looked the other way in not hypothetical cases of anti-Semitism and racism but real cases of anti-Semitism and racism. What about them? Are we going to let them go, or are we going to go after them? Maybe we should determine who the worst are before we start using the resources of the House of Representatives to call for people to resign.

Are there college presidents, by the way, who looked the other way when there was sexual abuse of college male wrestling team members, rape of students, or female gymnasts or female soccer players? Are we interested in that now that we are superintending higher education in America, now that we are the appellate review board for the colleges?

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Members are reminded to direct their remarks to the Chair.

Mr. RASKIN. Mr. Speaker, are we prepared to become the national academic appeals panel for college presidents, coaches, and professors, or is that perhaps best left to the universities themselves?

Maybe it is that we just don't have a positive legislative agenda of our own to lower drug prices in America, to get aid to our democratic allies in Ukraine against the fascist imperialist thug Vladimir Putin. Maybe we don't have anything real to do, so we decide instead to go around and start lecturing the college presidents and the college boards all over America.

In the absence of a real program for America, the majority is filling our hours with censures, expulsions, motions to vacate the speakership, overthrow their own leaders, and, of course, impeachment of President Biden for what? For doing nothing wrong. That is all that they give us. This cannibalistic instinct they have unleashed now turns on private citizens, academic leaders who will wear the scarlet letter ``A'' so they can have some more press conferences.

Vote ``no'' on this resolution.