Home News Live updates: University presidents testify before Congress as US colleges see more protests

Live updates: University presidents testify before Congress as US colleges see more protests

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Live updates: University presidents testify before Congress as US colleges see more protests

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From left: Michael Schill, president of Northwestern University, Jonathan Holloway, president of Rutgers University, Frederick M. Lawrence, secretary and CEO, The Phi Beta Kappa Society, and Gene Block, chancellor of the UCLA, during a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses, on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 23.
From left: Michael Schill, president of Northwestern University, Jonathan Holloway, president of Rutgers University, Frederick M. Lawrence, secretary and CEO, The Phi Beta Kappa Society, and Gene Block, chancellor of the UCLA, during a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses, on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 23. Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Reuters

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s hearing on campus antisemitism Thursday came with no shortage of fiery exchanges between lawmakers and the heads of Northwestern University, Rutgers University, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

This was the committee’s first hearing since the formation of pro-Palestinian protest encampments at schools nationwide. Demonstrators calling for an end to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and divestment from Israel-linked entities seriously disrupted campus life at all three of the schools. Lawmakers used the hearing to scrutinize the administrations’ response.

Here’s what happened on Capitol Hill:

University heads can’t win: Northwestern President Michael Schill and Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway negotiated with protesters rather than authorizing police to disband encampments, which UCLA Chancellor Gene Block ultimately did.

Both approaches received considerable rebuke from lawmakers on the Republican-led committee, though some Democratic lawmakers commended the negotiations.

But Block was also criticized by some lawmakers for not authorizing police to step in sooner, and he faced particular rebuke from Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who focused on an April 30 incident in which a group of people attacked the school’s pro-Palestinian encampment for hours without intervention by law enforcement. Omar referenced a CNN report on the attackers, many of whom expressed pro-Israel sentiments.

Limited consequences so far: In one of the hearing’s tensest exchanges, Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik slammed Schill for not taking action over allegations that a person told a Jewish student at the school to “go back to Germany and get gassed.”

Schill said he heard about that happening and “it is being investigated.” So far, no students who are being investigated for various alleged acts of antisemitism have been expelled or suspended, he said.

Rutgers’ Holloway and UCLA’s Block similarly said the universities have many active investigations underway. Holloway said his school has suspended four people and 19 others have received additional disciplinary actions.

A bounty of lawyerly responses: If you tuned in to Thursday’s hearing and thought the responses university heads gave were pre-rehearsed, it’s because they likely were.

The three university heads at the hearing had the advantage of learning from the prior campus hearings. They leaned into giving lawyerly responses, especially in tense lines of questioning, to avoid being cornered into taking a stance on divisive issues.

Schill also declined multiple times to discuss specific staff members or students raised by committee members.

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