Universities across the country that were quick to take stances on events like the death of George Floyd or the January 6 Capitol riot are either refusing to take an institutional stance on the terrorist attacks in Israel or correcting prior statements to explicitly condemn Hamas after facing backlash.
Northwestern University and Williams College have opted not to take a position on the attacks whereas Harvard, Cornell, Ohio State and Stanford University amended their statements after receiving criticism for not condemning Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror organization. However, these institutions released statements condemning events including Supreme Court decisions, the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 2021 and/or the killing of George Floyd.
Harvard initially released a statement failing to condemn the terrorists that attacked Israel, according to the Harvard Crimson. The university’s president released an updated response three days after the attacks that did condemn Hamas following community backlash.
Cornell acknowledged that many felt it did not adequately condemn Hamas in its initial Oct. 10 statement on the conflict and put out an updated statement.
“I have heard from a number of you who expressed dismay that I failed to say that the atrocities committed by Hamas this past weekend were acts of terrorism, which I condemn in the strongest possible terms,” Cornell University President Martha Pollack wrote. “I offer my heartfelt apologies for the omission from my previous message.”
Cornell released clear statements about overturning of Roe v. Wade, calling it “deeply disappointing” and the January 6 Capitol riot, which Pollack was “horrified, disgusted, and deeply saddened by” and explicitly condemned “in the strongest possible terms” in her statement on the day of the event.
Ohio State University initially issued a statement on the war in Israel but didn’t mention the specific acts of terrorism, focusing instead on providing mental health and advocacy resources to students. Ohio State pointed the DCNF to its updated statement condemning Hamas.
While his institution did not initially condemn Hamas, Ohio State University’s then-President Michael V. Drake issued a statement on behalf of the university in May 2020 calling the killing of George Floyd “yet another example of the racism that has crippled our nation for so very long” and resolving to “redouble our efforts to end abuse, discrimination, bigotry, and hatred.”
Williams College President Maud Mandel called the attacks on Israel by Hamas “horrific” but explained that she would not be issuing a statement on behalf of the college as “terrible tragedies and injustices occur too frequently in life” and that such statements “support some members of our community in particular moments while intentionally or unintentionally leaving out others.” Mandel explained that she had previously issued statements on current events but would “no longer issue, except in regards to events that directly impact our mission and work as a college.”
“I believe that our most important mission is to teach students how to think, and empower them to do so for themselves—not to tell them what to think,” she continued.
Previously, Mandel issued a statement reaffirming Williams’ commitment to racial diversity and inclusion on June 29, the day the Supreme Court declared affirmative action unconstitutional. Mandel released another statement four days earlier criticizing the Court’s decision in overturning Roe v. Wade, arguing that it “ignored substantial research findings on the negative health impacts of limiting reproductive care” and saying that she personally believes “women have an absolute right to choices about their own health and lives.”
Stanford initially declined to take a stance on the terrorist attacks in Israel
“Stanford University as an institution does not take positions on geopolitical issues and news events,” a statement from Stanford administrators read. “This is grounded in a principled belief that the appropriate role of university administrators in relation to geopolitical events is not to take positions or issue statements, but to create an environment in which faculty and students are free to develop and exchange ideas free from institutional orthodoxy,” the statement continued.
The university four days later went on to clarify that it “condemn[s] all terrorism and mass atrocities,” including “the deliberate attack on civilians this weekend by Hamas.”
Stanford’s then-President Marc Tessier-Lavigne was more straightforward in condemning the Supreme Court for declaring affirmative action unconstitutional.
Tessier-Lavigne was “deeply disappointed by today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upends the long-standing practice of race-conscious university admissions to help achieve a diverse student body.”
Stanford’s president also condemned the United States’ “shameful legacy of anti-Black racism” and committed to a slate of initiatives intended to address the purported racial inequality at Stanford following the George Floyd riots.
Northwestern University President Michael Schill explained that he is personally “repulsed” by the attacks on Israel, but declined to issue a stance on behalf of Northwestern as “the university does not speak for our students, faculty, and staff on these matters … for me to speak for them displaces their own freedom to speak,” according to Evanston Now.
UPDATE: I’ve obtained an email from concerned Jewish alumni at @NorthwesternU, as well as a reply from the school’s new president. “Northwestern does not intend to make an institutional statement” about the largest single-day slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust.
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 12, 2023
Northwestern joined with a coalition of 50 universities to “stand in solidarity with Ukraine” in March 2022 and released a statement condemning the January 6 Capitol riot the day it occurred.
OSU referred the DCNF to its updated statement on the Hamas attacks. None of the other universities responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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