Harvard Task Forces Release First Recommendations on Antisemitism, Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim Bias

Harvard’s presidential task forces to combat antisemitism and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias released their first recommendations on Wednesday, urging the University to fund a visiting professorship in Palestinian studies for next spring and tackle a culture of exclusion and discrimination against both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel students.

Both groups reported widespread discrimination against students based both on their identity and their political views, and suggested the University has failed to adequately address students’ concerns over antisemitism or anti-Palestinian bias.

“We will commence detailed review and implementation of the shorter-term recommendations over the summer,” interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 wrote in an email announcing the recommendations, but stopped short of pledging to fully implement them as written.

Garber’s implementation of the recommendations will mark another major test as Harvard’s governing boards hold off on announcing their process for selecting the University’s next president — and as he tries to prove to both Congress and Harvard affiliates that he is up to the task of handling antisemitism and other forms of bias on campus.

The task force to address anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab bias said Arab and Muslim students, faculty, and staff reported “a deap-seated sense of fear” and a “pervasive climate of intolerance” toward pro-Palestine views. The task force to combat antisemitism likewise said that Jewish and Israeli students faced “shunning, harassment, and intimidation.”

The highly-anticipated reports from the task forces, which were announced weeks after Garber took office in January, echo longstanding complaints from students about feelings of bias and harassment on campus since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The twin task forces operated separately, but sought to coordinate their timelines for releasing recommendations. Since Garber created the task forces in January, both launched an extensive listening campaign that included more than 85 listening sessions between task force members and Harvard faculty, students, and staff.

The leadership of the antisemitism task force in particular came under serious scrutiny over the course of the semester, with antisemitism task force co-chair Derek J. Penslar — a professor of Jewish history — facing national scrutiny over his past criticisms of Israel and accusations that he had downplayed campus antisemitism.

Harvard Business School professor Raffaella Sadun, who had been tapped as the task force’s other co-chair, resigned from the group in February over concerns that the University had not precommitted to implementing the group’s recommendations once they were issued.