(A version of this article originally appeared at Jewish News Syndicate on December 17, 2023)
As the nation saw during a recent Dec. 5 House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing, the leadership of Harvard University, which claims to be one of the world’s most elite institutions, struggles with common sense when it comes to antisemitism. Harvard president Claudine Gay was unable or unwilling to state the obvious: Calls for the genocide of Jews should not be welcome on college campuses. Fortunately for Gay, the Harvard Corporation fellows turned out to be equally incapable of leadership and her job was saved.
The day after the Harvard Corporation said it stood behind Gay, news emerged that the university had instructed Harvard Chabad Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi to pack up and hide the group’s menorah after the Hanukkah lighting “because there will be criminal activity [they] fear and it won’t look good.” In case it isn’t clear, Harvard is afraid antisemites on campus will vandalize the menorah, and that wouldn’t be a good look for the university.
All this took place at a university where, according to one analysis that said its figure was likely a dramatic undercounting, at least 98 staff are assigned to various diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) offices. The average annual wage in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard is located, is $153,504 according to city officials. Assuming the 98 staff reflect the average, that’s more than $15 million spent just on DEI salaries.
Yet despite hiring so many presumably brilliant minds and sinking millions into addressing the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion, the best answer to antisemitism the university could come up with was “hide the Jews.”
Put simply, the university prioritized maintaining a false image of inclusivity by deciding to exclude from campus a display of Jewish life. It chose not to practice actual inclusivity by promoting and protecting the right of students and staff to be openly Jewish. Rather than stand up to the bigots who have created the climate of antisemitism on campus, the university chose to become the antisemites’ enforcement arm.
Here’s a commonsense solution to the problem: Fire whoever’s idea it was to hide the menorah and use the money saved to hire a security guard. For the salary range advertised on a LinkedIn job posting for “Associate Director, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging” at the Harvard Kennedy School, the university could hire three security guards to protect the menorah and any other displays of Jewish life on campus. The three guards would accomplish far more for “diversity, equity and inclusion” at Harvard than all the 98-plus DEI staff members combined and for approximately one one-hundredth of the cost.