The rise in antisemitism at several American universities has led some Republican presidential hopefuls to call for the removal of federal funds from the colleges whose officials refuse to handle the issue appropriately.
Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania – two schools that both have received billions in federal payments over the past five years and billions more in federal tax breaks on their endowments – have found themselves embroiled in controversy over their handling of antisemitic incidents on campus following Hamas’ bloody attacks on Israelis and Israel’s response.
The issues have boiled over in recent weeks, leading to outside pressure from donors and top law firms to do more to protect Jewish students. Some politicians – now including multiple GOP presidential hopefuls – have questioned whether universities that don’t do enough to restrain antisemitic actions on campuses should have their tax-exempt statuses revoked or face other financial penalties.
Earlier this week, former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the Republican race for president, touted a new policy proposal to establish a federally funded online university that would award free degrees — one where “wokeness or jihadism” would not be permitted.
“In recent weeks, Americans have been horrified to see students and faculty at Harvard and other once-respected universities expressing support for the savages and jihadist who attacked Israel,” Trump said in a video outlining his proposal. “We spend more money on higher education than any other country and yet, they’re turning our students into communists and terrorists and sympathizers of many, many different dimensions. We can’t let this happen.”
Offering something “dramatically different,” Trump said he would use the “billions and billions of dollars that we will collect by taxing, fining, and suing excessively large university endowments” to “endow a new institution called the American Academy.”
Taking aim at the universities who have failed to deal with the antisemitic protests, Trump said the newly created learning venture would be different in the fact that it would be “strictly nonpolitical and there will be no wokeness or jihadism allowed.”
South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott is also seeking ways to hold the schools accountable, telling Fox News Digital that “no college or university should receive a single cent from the federal government” to fund acts of antisemitism.
“Any university or college that peddles blatant antisemitism, especially after Hamas’ brutal attack on Israeli civilians, women and children, has no place molding the minds of future generations, never mind receiving millions of taxpayer funds to do so,” Scott said.
“We must not only call out this hate, but crush it wherever it rears its ugly head. If these schools don’t change their ways, my legislation hits them where it hurts – their pocketbooks. No college or university should receive a single cent from the federal government to fund violent antisemitism,” he added.
Last month, Scott introduced the Stop Antisemitism on College Campuses Act to defund colleges and universities that peddle antisemitism or authorize, fund or facilitate events that promote violent antisemitism.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also hasn’t wasted time criticizing the schools for allowing the pro-Palestinian protests to continue, saying in a post to X on Friday that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism” and that there should be “no federal funds for schools that don’t combat antisemitism.”
Haley also blasted the institutions in a statement earlier this week, when she declared the U.S. “will not use taxpayer dollars to fund antisemitism” under her leadership.
“You can’t fight antisemitism if you can’t define it. Joe Biden and the Left refuse to call anti-Zionism antisemitism,” she said. “As president I will change the official federal definition of antisemitism to include denying Israel’s right to exist, and I will pull schools’ tax exemption status if they do not combat antisemitism in all of its forms – in accordance with federal law. College campuses are allowed to have free speech, but they are not free to spread hate that supports terrorism.”
“Federal law requires schools to combat antisemitism. We will give this law teeth and we will enforce it,” she added. “The United States of America will not use taxpayer dollars to fund antisemitism. Period.”
Like that of several of his Republican counterparts in the race, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also weighed his options on how to handle the situation.
DeSantis recently made the decision to decertify any pro-Palestinian student groups that side with Hamas from Florida college campuses, arguing that to allow these groups to openly side with “brutal terrorist organizations” is like committing “suicide as a country.”
Defending his decision in a recent appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” DeSantis said: “This is not cancel culture, this group, they themselves said in the aftermath of the Hamas attack that they don’t just stand in solidarity, that they are part of this Hamas movement.”
“And so, yeah, you have a right to go out and demonstrate, but you can’t provide material support to terrorism. They’ve linked themselves to Hamas, and so we absolutely decertified them,” he added.
Though he has not said how he would address the issue if he’s elected president, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also criticized schools that allow the antisemitic displays on their campuses during a campaign stop this week in New Hampshire.
“It’s an awful thing to watch what’s happening on college campuses,” Christie told Manchester’s WMUR 9 news. “I’m going to Dartmouth this afternoon, and I’m sure I’m going to confront it there. And these college and university presidents, the board of trustees should be held responsible. We send our 18-year-old children there.”
Christie also suggested that some institutions should fire antisemitic faculty and replace university presidents who refuse to condemn antisemitic violence, the outlet noted.
Long-shot presidential candidate North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum noted in a statement to Fox News Digital that “Title VI prohibits federal funding for any college or university that enables anti-Semitism” and that he “will fully enforce this law.”
Late last month, Burgum shared images of an anti-Israel display on the campus of George Washington University in a post to X, writing, “Antisemitism cannot be tolerated. Period.”
“The students responsible should be held accountable and if the university fails to do so it should lose any federal funding,” Burgum added at the time.
Asa Hutchinson, another long-shot presidential candidate, also weighed in on the issue, telling Fox News Digital that “grants and subsidies to any institution that discriminates” on the basis of race should be removed.
“The universities should absolutely protect Jewish students and the university leaders should speak out against and take action against anti-Semitic conduct by students,” said Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas. “This is not a time to remain silent. Further, grants and subsidies to any institution that discriminates against any race should be rescinded.”
OpenBooks recently discovered that between 2018 and 2022, Harvard received $3.13 billion in total federal payments, which includes federal grants and contracts, while UPenn received $4.38 billion in payments.
The universities also received generous tax breaks on their endowments. During those same years, Harvard’s endowment totaled $50.9 billion, and the university received $2.17 billion in special federal tax treatment. UPenn’s endowment totaled $20.7 billion, and it received $1.28 billion in special federal tax treatment during that time.
“Are these wealthy universities operating in the public interest or their own special interest? Since these schools are educational charities under IRS code 501(c)3, Congress should hold hearings,” OpenTheBooks founder Adam Andrzejewski told Fox News Digital this week.
Fox News’ Joe Schoffstall and Stephen Sorace contributed to this report.
Scroll down to leave a comment: