Source – The Harvard Crimson
In a significant development, the House Ways and Means Committee has issued a letter suggesting that Harvard University may face the loss of its tax-exempt status. The committee, chaired by Rep. Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.), expressed concerns over Harvard’s response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas against Israel and allegations of antisemitism on campus. This move adds to the ongoing scrutiny by House Republicans on elite educational institutions regarding their handling of antisemitism issues.
The letter also addressed to the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and MIT, questions the universities’ responses to Hamas’ attacks and their alleged failure to adequately protect Jewish students from discrimination and harassment. Chairman Smith emphasized his disappointment with these responses, raising doubts about whether the institutions meet the criteria to retain tax-exempt status.
Most universities currently enjoy tax-exempt
Harvard, like most universities, currently enjoys tax-exempt status due to its classification as a provider of public goods. However, Smith contends that the handling of antisemitism issues might not align with antidiscrimination laws, potentially putting the university’s tax-exempt status in jeopardy.
Smith cited former President Claudine Gay’s testimony at a congressional hearing on antisemitism as an example of the lack of support for Jewish students. The committee has given Harvard a two-week deadline to provide information on speech policies, tax records, funding for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs, and the university’s process for issuing statements on current events.
In response, Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton stated that the university is reviewing Chairman Smith’s letter and will communicate with the committee regarding its request. The letter from Smith singled out the universities’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, accusing them of excluding Jewish students and stifling dissent.
Harvard’s campus and plagiarism allegations against Claudine Gay
Smith, in his capacity as the head of the committee with primary jurisdiction over tax-exempt institutions, expressed concerns about the need to re-examine the benefits and tax treatment afforded to these institutions.
This latest development follows the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s investigation into antisemitism on university campuses and plagiarism allegations against Claudine Gay. The Ways and Means Committee’s involvement underscores the broader implications for tax policies.
The letter from Smith reinforces the ongoing pressure on Harvard, even in the wake of Gay’s resignation, indicating that federal lawmakers remain focused on the university during what is considered one of its most significant leadership crises in decades. Smith has requested a response from Harvard to his inquiries by Jan. 24, aligning with the start of the spring semester.