Northwestern president defends his leadership in new antisemitism hearing

"I'm really offended by you telling me what my views are," Northwestern President Michael Schill said. 

Northwestern President Michael Schill deferred, denied and even outright refused to answer questions if they pertained to hypotheticals, making the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce’s third hearing on campus antisemitism with U.S. leaders the most confrontational yet.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the committee chair, regularly sounded her gavel to contain cross-talking and representatives overstepping their five minutes of questioning.

Also at the hearing were the presidents of Rutgers University and the University of California, Los Angeles. Schill was the only Jewish leader president and described himself as a descendant of Holocaust survivors. He is also a legal scholar with more than a decade of experience as dean of the law schools at the University of Chicago and UCLA.

GOP lawmakers zeroed in on Northwestern because they believe its administration capitulated to pro-Palestinian protestors’ demands to divest from Israel. The university agreed to reestablish an advisory committee made up of students, staff and faculty that will be granted direct contact with internal stakeholders responsible for the university’s investment portfolio.

But during his opening statement, Schill rejected any assumptions that the agreement was a move to divest. Rather, he stressed that it led to the end of encampments without the use of police force. “Leaders need to make hard decisions,” he said. “We got a good result. We got rid of the major antisemitic event on our campus with no violence.”

California Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-California) believes the agreement “institutionalized” antisemitism and “rewarded” violent protests by pro-Palestinian advocates. The president interrupted Kiley mid-remark to deny the congressman’s assumption the university agreed to any of their demands.

“You are the easiest case that we have dealt with,” Kiley said. “I would associate my comments with the [Anti-Defamation League], and I think that if the university does not make moves to change leadership, then they will be endorsing that normalization on campus.”

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Rep. Elis Stefanik (R-N.Y.), one of the committee’s most confrontational members and who many credit for the resignation of Harvard’s and University of Pennsylvania’s presidents, mentioned that whistleblowers came forward accusing Schill of trying to add anti-Zionist members to the advisory committee.

“I can’t say who has talked to you or not talked to you, but I can tell you the truth,” said Schill.

The president exchanged blows for the entirety of Rep. Burgess Owens’ (R-Utah) allocated time. Schill refused “to engage in hypotheticals” when the House member asked if the university would show the same patience with KKK members as it had with Gaza protestors. Their exchange became even more heated when Owens accused Northwestern’s Qatar campus of associating with the Middle Eastern country’s government, which he accused of harboring Hamas leaders. He then suggested the president was comfortable with these allegations.

“I’m really offended by you telling me what my views are,” Schill said.

Representatives also pointed to the lack of disciplinary action after many Jewish students were allegedly spat on and accosted during the protests. Schill refused to oblige any details, reminding the committee each incident is still under investigation. Schill flatly denied Rep. Jim Banks’ (R-Ind.) line of questioning around the firing of a former football coach. The congressman claims a link between a lack of due process given to the coach and the ongoing investigation of pro-Palestinian protestors.

“Your premise is inaccurate,” Schill remarked.

In a pivot from Columbia University President Minouche Shafik during her testimony in April, Schill, despite pressure from Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), refused to discuss the actions of individual faculty members involved in the boycott, divest and sanctions movement.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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