Harvard University President Claudine Gay recently announced her intention to address anti-Semitism on campus by exploring “how we can build on the initial steps taken by the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging to more fully integrate antisemitism into the work of that office.” This is exactly the wrong strategy.
Harvard has had a long and disgraceful history with antisemitism. Regrettably, the school is again the focus of global attention given its mismanagement of the rise in Jewish hatred in the wake of Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel in October. Harvard’s administration lacked any ethical core and displayed the opposite of moral clarity by failing immediately to condemn Hamas’s actions and support the Jewish student population. Now, Harvard’s latest attempt to combat the deep-seated antisemitism on campus is to double down on using diversity offices—the same dangerous offices that harbor ill will against Judaism and have promoted extremism and silence for well over two decades now.
The disturbing reality of collegiate life today is that diversity, equity, and inclusion offices (DEI) have politicized almost every facet of life on campuses. Students are told what words to use and what topics can be questioned or debated. DEI offices are fixated on the idea of difference and the immutable characteristics of students at the expense of community and shared experiences. From DEI-run affinity group centers to dining centers and residence halls, DEI officers police how students engage with each other. Some students limit their speech, often choosing to self-censor. Should someone slip and conflict with the DEI orthodoxy, there are bias reporting hotlines for students to use. This adds to the anxiety of being a Gen-Z student. Gone are the days of learning how to navigate differences, work with others, and experience both the pain and pleasure of complex, networked life.
Because DEI is built on the unshakable belief that the world is sophomorically divided into simply oppressors and the oppressed, Jews are branded as oppressors and Israel is considered a “ genocidal, settler, colonialist state” in the minds of these offices. As such, a former DEI official rightfully found that “criticizing Israel and the Jewish people is not only acceptable but praiseworthy” and “if you defend them, you’re actively abetting racist oppression.”
DEI offices have failed to live up to their names. and former Harvard president Lawrence Summers correctly observed that “with few exceptions, those most directly charged with confronting prejudice—Offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—have failed to stand with Israeli and Jewish students confronting the oldest prejudice of them all.” Harvard’s own DEI office admitted that it did nothing after the October 7 Hamas attacks and blamed outside sources for the violence on campus. These offices, and their finger-pointing, reveal their cowardice and veiled antisemitism and Jews should reject their expansion and call for their closure.
Gay’s proposal goes further in creating harm for Harvard because in addition to promoting DEI, she marginalized the group that sits at the very core of Harvard itself: the faculty. Gay effectively neutralized professors and their role on campus thought and culture. Rather than treating professors as those who tackle big questions and educate America’s brightest, the mission of educating “citizen-leaders for our society” is now the responsibility of administrative staff. The faculty should be troubled and furious. It does not have to be this way. Former Stanford Provost John Etchemendy recently described a moment a decade ago when the Westboro Baptist Church targeted Hillel during a time when Stanford did not “have a DEI program to mandate diversity and inclusion.” The school nonetheless managed to navigate hatred, in Etchemendy’s words, because “we saw ourselves as a community of scholars, who approached even the most agonizing events with compassion and understanding—and a determination to find a solution.” Claudine Gay’s approach has grown the bureaucracy and all but stripped the faculty of such a critical role.
Stanford trusted its professors at a time when the community needed their expertise and leadership. Harvard has lacked any fortitude to speak the truth, and Claudine Gay and her administration instead propose enlarging the school’s administration. In a staunch rebuke, Summers stated, “It is shameful that no honest observer looking at the record of the last few years and especially at the last month can suppose that universities’ responses including Harvard to antisemitism have paralleled in vigor or volume the responses to racism or other forms of prejudice.” While Gay explicitly stated that anti-Semitism has no place at Harvard and is now dedicated to tackling this pernicious hatred with the urgency it demands, her approach is completely backward. Harvard needs to rethink its problem with antisemitism immediately and the Jewish community should reject seeing itself as a victim within the DEI framework—nor ever seek to win the approval of intersectional, progressive ideologues who have poisoned campuses nationwide.
Students are scared, intimidated, and not being treated equally, which is seemingly antithetical to a true inclusive agenda and Harvard should be modeling how to embrace the truth, not hiding behind administrators who are trying to reject or distort reality.