House Committee Subpoenas Harvard to Submit Documents Related to Anti-Semitism

A congressional committee said Friday that it subpoenaed Harvard University seeking documentation on whether the university tolerated anti-Semitism on its campus.

The move is part of an expanding Republican effort to investigate elite universities for their response to pro-Palestinian student protests, especially after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel. The committee has also launched investigations into Columbia, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania. But Harvard is the first to receive citations.

The war between Israel and Hamas has exposed deep political divisions among Harvard students, faculty and alumni, contributing to the resignation last month of Claudine Gay, the university’s first black president.

Harvard, like many other universities, has said it must protect Jewish students while protecting free speech, but critics have said university officials have allowed protests to veer into anti-Semitism.

The House Education and Workforce Committee said the subpoenas were served on Harvard’s acting president, Alan Garber; the head of his governing corporation, Penny Pritzker; and NP Narvekar, CEO of its management company, which manages the university’s endowment.

The subpoenas were not a surprise, since in recent days the committee had reprimanded Harvard for withholding or redacting excessive documents and warned that it would take legal action.

“Harvard’s continued failure to meet the committee’s requests is unacceptable,” Rep. Virginia Foxx said in a statement Friday. “I will not tolerate delays and challenges to our research as Harvard’s Jewish students continue to endure the storm of anti-Semitism that has engulfed their campus.”

The university denied it had been withholding information.

“Harvard has provided complete, good faith responses in 10 submissions totaling more than 3,500 pages that directly address key areas of research presented by the committee,” the university said in a statement Friday. “While the subpoenas were unwarranted, Harvard remains committed to cooperating with the committee and will continue to provide additional materials, while protecting our community’s legitimate privacy and security concerns.”

In its document requests, the committee said there was evidence that anti-Semitism had been “pervasive” at Harvard long before the Oct. 7 attack.

But Randall Kennedy, a law professor at Harvard, said he found it difficult to accept the premise that the investigation had to do exclusively with anti-Semitism.

“I think it’s obvious that this is not a good faith investigation,” he said. “The people running the program obviously harbor animosity toward elite liberal universities, primarily in the Northeast, and this is a continuation of their campaign.”

The subpoena addressed to Ms. Pritzker and Dr. Garber requested “all minutes and/or summaries of meetings of the Harvard Corporation, whether formal or informal, since January 1, 2021,” among a wide range of other documents.

As head of the Harvard Corporation, Ms. Pritzker, a businesswoman and philanthropist, was a leading supporter of Dr. Gay’s presidency. The corporation repeatedly expressed its support for Dr. Gay, even as she accepted her resignation on January 2.

Narvekar, of Harvard’s management company, appears to have come under fire for his role in communicating with big donors during the October 7-January 2 turmoil, when they may have threatened to withdraw over accusations of anti-Semitism.

The subpoenas also request information about disciplinary proceedings “related to conduct involving Jews, Israelis, Zionists, or Zionism since January 1, 2021.”

The subpoenas set a deadline of March 4 for Harvard to produce the documents.

This would be the first time the committee, founded in 1867, has issued a subpoena to a university, a committee spokesman said.

“I think this is just the beginning of legislative investigations into the internal behavior of higher education institutions,” said Peter Lake, a law professor at Stetson University in Florida and director of its Center for Excellence in Education Law and Policy. Superior.

“Obviously,” he added, “Harvard is a leading figure to investigate.”

The committee said it could refer any findings to the Department of Education, which has some oversight powers. And Ms. Foxx has said that universities that tolerate anti-Semitism should not receive federal funding.

Lake said Congress could exercise some authority over universities. “The real threat is potential legislation like taxing donations, limiting federal borrowing and establishing performance metrics for funding,” she said. “And the committee can also influence the court of public opinion, making life very difficult for a university.”