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Harvard Cancels Congressman Who Mocked Harvard Cancellations

It would be one thing if Gay’s commitment to free speech were the real deal. As it is, anyone with a sense of institutional memory knows that Gay doesn’t believe a word she said in Washington.

University Presidents Testify In House Hearing On Campus Antisemitism

Last week, Harvard President Claudine Gay drew national outrage when she and two other elite university presidents told a congressional committee that calls for a genocide of the Jews wouldn’t necessarily violate campus rules against harassment. Yet Gay hasn’t been without her defenders, who insist that her stance is about protecting free speech. As Gay herself said in her opening remarks to the lawmakers, “I have sought to confront hate while preserving free expression.... The free exchange of ideas is the foundation upon which Harvard is built.”

A mere two days after Gay mouthed these words, however, Harvard canceled a student event featuring two Democratic lawmakers—one of whom had been critical of Gay’s testimony.


On the afternoon of Friday, December 8, Harvard’s John Adams Society, a conservative-leaning student group, was to host a discussion on the future of U.S.–China relations and their ramifications for American industrial policy, featuring Reps. Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts and Ro Khanna of California. The planned event was cosponsored by American Affairs, the heterodox policy journal edited by Julius Krein (and where—full disclosure—I’ve published a single piece).

A month earlier, on November 6, David Vega, a current student affiliated with the John Adams Society, booked a room through the proper channels and received an email from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences confirming the room and the event. “YOUR ROOM HAS BEEN CONFIRMED,” read the confirmation email, which I’ve reviewed. The administration even offered audiovisual assistance and day-of contact information; everything seemed to be going swimmingly.

As the days went by, various Harvard authorities helped the organizers and congressional staff through the byzantine campus process. When Auchincloss’s chief of staff reached out to the Harvard events team to discuss security, Christine Haverty, director of events management, replied, “Thank you! For this, you would work with the team planning the event and Harvard University Police,” adding: “They are wonderful!” On Nov. 27, Haverty introduced the congressional team to Sgt. Andy Gilbert of Harvard Police to coordinate security. A few days later, Harvard Police informed the organizers and the congressional team, “We’d like to let you know that [Harvard Police] is still in the planning stages for this event, and we will be coordinating a planning meeting in the coming days.”

The planning process continued. There were no ominous signs. As recently as December 5, Harvard confirmed the event as scheduled and set to go forward. Then, that same day, Gay gave her Washington testimony—you know, the one where she insisted the sacred principle of free speech protects even extreme anti-Jewish animus, depending on the context. Two days later, on December 7, the student organizer received an email informing him that the event was canceled. JonRobert Bagley, the associate director for student organizations, explained that the event had been canceled owing to the fact that it was cosponsored by a non-Harvard entity, American Affairs. (Krein, the journal’s editor, is an alumnus, for what it’s worth.)

What happened between December 5 and December 7? Gay’s congressional testimony took place on December 5. Auchincloss published a statement on December 6 mocking her for her supposed commitment to free speech. “Harvard ranks last out of 248 universities for support of free speech,” Auchincloss said. “But when it comes to denouncing anti-Semitism, suddenly the university has anxieties about the First Amendment. It rings hollow.” On December 7, the event was canceled.

It would be one thing if Gay’s commitment to free speech were the real deal. As it is, anyone with a sense of institutional memory knows that Gay doesn’t believe a word she said in Washington. Heck, you don’t even need institutional memory: Just behold her institution’s conduct with respect to a member of Congress who dared criticize her.

A Harvard spokesman claimed that the university has “no record of an event registration request,” notwithstanding the registration confirmation reviewed by The American Conservative and dozens of back-and-forth emails between organizers and Harvard staff, all predicated upon the fact that the event is registered and moving forward.