Townhall: Rep. Rudy Yakym Puts University DEI Departments on Notice for Anti-Semitism

Nov 07, 2023
Press

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/rebeccadowns/2023/11/06/rep-rudy-yakym-puts-university-dei-departments-on-notice-for-anti-semitism-n263084

In light of the October 7 terrorist attack Hamas perpetrated against Israel, colleges and universities around the country have alarmingly failed to rise to the occasion to call out anti-semitism taking place on their campuses. Rep. Rudy Yakym (R-IN), though, is looking to put them on notice, specifically when it comes to what, if anything, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officers are doing about it, as Townhall has learned.

On Monday, Yakym sent a letter to 110 college and universities’ DEI officials. Included among them are those where there have already been instances of anti-semitism on campus so far, such as HarvardCornellCooper UnionUPennUC BerkeleyGeorge Washington UniversityGeorge MasonGeorgetown, and Yale.

Jews have not merely been targeted by Hamas with “unspeakable war crimes,” as the congressman’s letter points out, but the ensuing “global convulsion of antisemitism,” with the letter adding “sadly, America’s university campuses have not been immune.”

“Israeli and Jewish students and faculty across the country have expressed concern at the current climate on campuses. There are too many examples of threats or acts of physical violence, verbal harassment, intimidation, graffiti, stalking, and other menacing actions directed at Israeli and Jewish students and faculty. Some have even been forced to barricade themselves in rooms for safety,” the letter goes on to add, mentioning one such example that took place at Cooper Union.

Yakym’s letter also refers to what efforts there’s been from President Joe Biden and his administration. In a recent statement provided to the Times of Israel, White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates noted “an extremely disturbing pattern of antisemitic messages being conveyed on college campuses…that call for the annihilation of the state of Israel; for genocide against the Jewish people.” As Bates’ statement aptly pointed out, “Delegitimizing the State of Israel while praising the Hamas terrorist murderers who burned innocent people alive, or targeting Jewish students, is the definition of unacceptable–and the definition of antisemitism.”

In one of the 110 letters, in this case to Dr. Sherri Charleston at Harvard University, which Townhall obtained, Yakym’s letter raises concerns that these DEI officers are not living up to their responsibilities.

“As the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Harvard University, you appear to be the individual principally responsible for advancing the ideal of inclusion, ensuring that all students and faculty, regardless of nationality or faith, feel accepted in the campus environment and student body,” Yakym’s letter points out. “However, at least one or more incidents on your campus in recent weeks raise questions about the climate of inclusion fostered by the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging for Israeli and Jewish students and faculty.”

Harvard has been a particularly noteworthy example as of late, and not merely because it is supposedly an elite institution. As Townhall covered at the time, Harvard’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) came out right away with a statement blaming Israel for the October 7 attack. As the identified students face consequences for their actions, such as through rescinded job offers, the university put out a task force to protect those students. Meanwhile, pro-Israel students walking through campus are attacked while demonstrating, as was the case last week when Ibrahim Bharmal, the editor of the Harvard Law Review, confronted a student.

In one of the 110 letters, in this case to Dr. Sherri Charleston at Harvard University, which Townhall obtained, Yakym’s letter raises concerns that these DEI officers are not living up to their responsibilities.

“As the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Harvard University, you appear to be the individual principally responsible for advancing the ideal of inclusion, ensuring that all students and faculty, regardless of nationality or faith, feel accepted in the campus environment and student body,” Yakym’s letter points out. “However, at least one or more incidents on your campus in recent weeks raise questions about the climate of inclusion fostered by the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging for Israeli and Jewish students and faculty.”

Harvard has been a particularly noteworthy example as of late, and not merely because it is supposedly an elite institution. As Townhall covered at the time, Harvard’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) came out right away with a statement blaming Israel for the October 7 attack. As the identified students face consequences for their actions, such as through rescinded job offers, the university put out a task force to protect those students. Meanwhile, pro-Israel students walking through campus are attacked while demonstrating, as was the case last week when Ibrahim Bharmal, the editor of the Harvard Law Review, confronted a student.

Billionaire donors and alumni, such as Bill Ackerman, have been expressing their displeasure with Harvard and other Ivy League institutions, through letters and even pulling back their donations. Other alumni in Congress, including House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), have also called out their alma mater.

Yakym is thus asking Dr. Charleston and other DEI officials a series of questions, expecting a response by December 8. Many of his questions refer to alarming anti-semitic chants, some of them even calling for the destruction of Israel and Jews, that have actually been heard at protests, including on college campuses:

1. Does the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging maintain an official, written definition of antisemitism? 

• If yes, how does this definition compare with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism?

• If no, why not? How does the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging evaluate allegations of antisemitism and any potential need for education and awareness  about antisemitism? 

2. For each of the below statements: Does the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging classify it as antisemitic? Do you believe that it increases or decreases feelings of inclusion and  belonging among Israeli and Jewish students and faculty?  

• “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” 

• “Globalize the Intifada.” 

• “One solution, intifada, revolution.” 

• “Glory to our martyrs.” 

• “Zionism hands off our universities.” 

• “Decolonization is not a metaphor.” 

• “We don’t want Israel to exist. We don’t want these Zionist counter-protesters to exist.” 

• “Zionism has no place on our campus.” 

3. For each of the below descriptions of images: Does the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging classify it as antisemitic? Do you believe that it increases or decreases feelings of  inclusion and belonging among Israeli and Jewish students and faculty? 

• A trash can with the Star of David in it, captioned, “Keep the world clean” 

• An invitation or a poster with a paraglider, hang glider, or paratrooper, which were  employed by Hamas as it engaged in the mass slaughter of Israeli civilians on October 7 

4. There have been many incidents of students or faculty tearing down posters of men, women, and  children believed to have been kidnapped on October 7 or who are otherwise still missing. Does  the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging believe that such actions increase or  decrease feelings of inclusion and belonging among Israeli and Jewish students and faculty? 

5. How many full- or part-time employees are in the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and  Belonging and affiliated entities overall? Of those, how many full- or part-time employees are  dedicated to educating and raising awareness about antisemitism, handling allegations of  antisemitism, and/or promoting inclusion of Israeli and Jewish students and faculty? 

6. Please describe specific actions taken by the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and  Belonging to educate and raise awareness about antisemitism since October 7, 2023. 

7. Please describe the resources the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging is  providing to Israeli and Jewish students and faculty to ensure they feel included and safe in the  campus environment and student body. 

8. Please describe resources you are providing to Israeli or Jewish students and faculty to ensure  they do not face threats of physical violence, verbal harassment, intimidation, and other actions  that directly or indirectly encourage exclusion from the campus environment, including any mechanism to report such incidents should they occur. 

“America’s colleges and universities should be equipping the next generation with the skills they need to be better citizens, not fueling the ugly scourge of antisemitism. Taxpayers, parents, and concerned Americans deserve to know how these higher education institutions are responding to some of the most vile and blatant antisemitic displays in recent memory happening on their own campuses,” Yakym told Townhall in a statement. “These schools talk about ‘inclusion’ a lot – it’s up to them to show they are doing everything they can to ensure their Jewish students and faculty feel safe and accepted on campus in the wake of Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attacks.”

Yakym voted with the majority of House members last week to pass a resolution from Stefanik and Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) to condemn anti-semitism on college campuses. It also specifically called out “the support of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations at institutions of higher education, which may lead to the creation of a hostile environment for Jewish students, faculty, and staff.” Twenty-three members voted against the resolution, including 22 Democrats.

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