In a recent development, House Speaker Mike Johnson suggested that the House of Representatives is considering cutting federal funding to universities that do not actively combat antisemitism on their campuses.
This statement follows heightened tensions and protests related to the Israel-Hamas conflict on U.S. university campuses since Oct. 7.
House probes funding of universities over antisemitism concerns
During a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Johnson revealed, “We’ve launched an investigation here in the House of all this federal funding that these institutes receive, and we have to demand accountability in every possible way.”
“I think everything’s on the table right now. We have to have accountability. It is inexcusable. These institutions are receiving so many taxpayer dollars when they can’t even stand up for the basic human rights of their Jewish students?”
Johnson’s remarks were triggered by a Dec. 5 hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, where the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) testified.
University leaders’ testimony on antisemitism leads to resignations
During the hearing, these leaders suggested that calls for Jewish genocide on campuses may not breach university policies.
Johnson expressed shock at this testimony, stating, “We were appalled by that outrageous testimony. It’s just staggering. We kind of know what they think. We sort of know the hypocrisy exists there, but you’ve never seen it on such a glaring display.”
Following this hearing, UPenn President Liz Magill and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Scott Bok resigned, primarily due to Magill’s testimony.
Meanwhile, Harvard President Claudine Gay, despite facing calls for resignation and plagiarism allegations, has retained her position at the university.
GOP target MIT, Harvard presidents, eye Solomon Amendment strategy
Highlighting the Republican Conference’s stance, Johnson mentioned, “As Chairman Elise Stefanik says of our Republican Conference who evoked those responses, you know, ‘one down, two to go.’”
This comment reflects a broader sentiment within the House Republican Conference advocating removing MIT and Harvard’s presidents.
Johnson further suggested that applying a Solomon Amendment-like approach could be a viable strategy, saying, “I think there needs to be real accountability, Hugh, and I think that what you’re referring to with a Solomon Amendment may be one approach.”
Solomon Amendment: Linking military access to university funding
The Solomon Amendment, a federal law enacted under President George W. Bush in 2006, mandates that universities allow military recruiters and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) personnel on their campuses to qualify for federal funding.
It was designed initially to counteract university policies that barred recruiters during the Vietnam War.
Johnson did not specify how the House might measure a university’s efforts to combat antisemitism. Notably, Harvard, with a substantial endowment of $50.7 billion, received $676 million in federal funding for fiscal year 2023 and enjoys a tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization.
Johnson decries universities’ inaction on antisemitism, signals potential policy shift
Concluding his interview, Johnson emphasized the gravity of the situation, “I mean, the idea that they would not call outcries for the annihilation of the Jewish state and the Jewish people is just, it’s just unbelievable to us. And so everything is on the table, Hugh. We’ll see.”
This statement reflects a growing concern and a call to action within the U.S. House of Representatives, signaling potential significant changes in federal policy towards universities about their handling of antisemitism on campuses.