House GOP hits Penny Pritzker and 2 others with subpoenas in Harvard antisemitism probe

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The chair of the House education committee is moving to compel Harvard University to hand over a slew of documents she says the school hasn’t turned over for the committee’s investigation into antisemitism on campus.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, issued subpoenas on Friday to Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny Pritzker, interim President Alan Garber and Harvard Management Company CEO N.P. Narvekar.

This is the first time the committee has issued a subpoena against a university.

“I will not tolerate delay and defiance of our investigation while Harvard’s Jewish students continue to endure the firestorm of antisemitism that has engulfed its campus,” Foxx said in a statement. “It is my hope that these subpoenas serve as a wakeup call to Harvard that Congress will not tolerate antisemitic hate in its classrooms or on campus.”

Harvard’s leaders have until March 4 at 5 p.m. to turn over the requested documents.

“Given the breadth and extensive nature of the information Harvard has provided to the Committee, it is unfortunate that the Committee has chosen to issue subpoenas," Harvard spokesperson Jason Newton said in response. "While subpoenas were unwarranted, Harvard remains committed to cooperating with the Committee and will continue to provide additional materials, while protecting the legitimate privacy, safety and security concerns of our community."

The committee officially launched its investigation into Harvard last month after Republicans slammed three university leaders at a December House hearing on campus antisemitism.

Lawmakers scrutinized responses from former Harvard University President Claudine Gay, former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth.

Foxx issued her final warning letter to the institution's leaders last week and slammed Harvard’s document production as “grossly insufficient.”

As of Wednesday, Harvard had sent the committee 10 submissions of documents totaling more than 3,500 pages that the school says addresses the committee’s inquiry.

A Harvard spokesperson on Wednesday said the institution “has responded extensively and in good faith” and reaffirmed that Harvard is “committed to continued cooperation.”

But Foxx on Friday said the school had produced 2,516 documents related to the school’s antisemitism response, of which more than 40 percent were already publicly available.

“Quality — not quantity — is the Committee’s concern,” she said, adding that the school failed to produce documents on two of four priority requests, and the documents produced have “apparent omissions and questionable redactions.”

Jon Fansmith, the top policy advocate at the American Council on Education which represents the nation’s colleges, said Foxx's subpoenas allow her committee to go after an institution in a way ACE has not seen before in modern history.

"This is a real wasted opportunity," he told POLITICO in an interview. "The committee does have great power ... and instead of looking at ways to improve the situation of Jewish students and Muslim and Arab students on college campuses right now, they are using that power to go after and punish an institution that by all accounts has done everything possible to be fully compliant and to meet their demands."

Foxx, in her letters, said she wants Harvard to produce board meeting minutes following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel; all reports of antisemitic incidents on campus since January 2021; documents related to the findings and results of the school’s disciplinary process for antisemitism; and internal communication related to antisemitism among the institution’s leaders, among other requests.

She also wants documents and communication related to specific incidents, including the institution’s response to an open letter from student organizations on campus that placed blame on Israel for the Hamas attacks and sparked widespread outrage from prominent political alumni, including former Harvard President Larry Summers, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).