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POLITICS: Elite American universities receiving billions in federal funds see rise in antisemitism: ‘Gamed the tax code’

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Two elite universities that have made headlines in recent weeks for their lackluster response to antisemitism on their campuses have raked in billions in taxpayer-backed federal funds in recent years, according to an analysis conducted by OpenTheBooks and provided to Fox News Digital.

Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania have found themselves embroiled in controversy over their handling of antisemitic incidents on campus following Hamas’ bloody attacks on Israelis and Israel’s response. 

The issues have boiled over in recent weeks, leading to outside pressure from donors and top law firms to do more to protect Jewish students. Some politicians have even questioned whether universities that don’t do enough to restrain antisemitic actions on campuses should have their tax-exempt statuses revoked.

Harvard and UPenn, which have been among the colleges at the center of the storm, have received billions in federal payments over the past five years and billions more in federal tax breaks on their endowments.

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Harvard and UPenn have faced criticism over their response to antisemitism on their campuses.  (Getty Images)

“Are these wealthy universities operating in the public interest or their own special interest? Since these schools are educational charities under IRS code 501(c)3, Congress should hold hearings,” OpenTheBooks founder Adam Andrzejewski told Fox News Digital. 

“For example, Harvard and UPenn are now more federal contractor than educator, collecting more on government contracts and grants than undergraduate student tuition.

“With the U.S. taxpayer subsidies, tax breaks and federal payments into Harvard and UPenn exceeding $1 billion per year, it’s time to revisit the definition of a public charity. Collectively, these two schools have gamed the tax code for vast institutional enrichment.”

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Andrzejewski’s group discovered that between 2018 and 2022, Harvard received $3.13 billion in total federal payments, which includes federal grants and contracts, while UPenn received $4.38 billion in payments.

The universities also received generous tax breaks on their endowments. During those same years, Harvard’s endowment totaled $50.9 billion, and the university received $2.17 billion in special federal tax treatment. UPenn’s endowment totaled $20.7 billion, and it received $1.28 billion in special federal tax treatment during that time.

“Who knew that you were subsidizing the wealthy Ivy League? They don’t need taxpayer help,” Andrzejewski said.

The two universities have come under fire in recent weeks over their response to rising antisemitic incidents on campus. 

Supporters of Palestine at Harvard University

Supporters of Palestinians gather at Harvard University to show their support at a rally in Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 14, 2023. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Harvard has faced severe criticism since dozens of student organizations signed a statement issued by the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups that blamed the “Israeli regime” for “all unfolding violence” in the hours after Hamas’ unprecedented Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The incident led to a prominent law firm pulling job offers from students who belong to those student organizations. 

Israeli students at the university also reportedly faced “anti-Israel and antisemitic bias” from Harvard professor Marshall Ganz, the Boston Herald reported. 

These events and others prompted some of the university’s influential donors to end their relationships with the university. At the same time, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan withdrew his offer to participate in Harvard’s fellowship programs.

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Students are also planning to sue Harvard, among other universities, for not doing enough to address the “explosion” of antisemitic incidents on campus, Business Insider reported. 

“We’re going to show that the universities had notice of acts of hatred and bigotry towards Jewish students, that there was pervasive anti-Jewish bigotry on campus and that administrators and university bureaucrats acted with deliberate indifference, which is the legal term, with respect to campus antisemitism,” lawyer Mark Ressler told the publication.

“Things are out of control on campus.” 

UPenn is losing major donors

Several major University of Pennsylvania donors have cut ties with the school over its response to the Hamas attack on Israel and to pro-Palestinian student groups. (Left: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images Right: Paul Hennesy/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Following weeks of backlash, Harvard President Claudine Gay recently announced the creation of an advisory council to combat antisemitism on campus.

UPenn, meanwhile, has faced anger from donors after an event held shortly before Hamas’ deadly attacks, and which reached fever pitch after the attacks.

Several groups at the university held a “Palestine Writes” festival on campus in September, which included speakers who had a history of antisemitic comments.

After several students expressed concern about the event, UPenn President Liz Magill and school leaders issued a statement saying they “unequivocally — and emphatically — condemn antisemitism as antithetical to our institutional values.”

Magill faced calls from several university donors to resign for not doing enough to combat antisemitism on campus. This event and others led her to announce an “action plan” this week focusing on safety and security, engagement and education. 

Protestors gather at Harvard University to slam Israel's "genocide" of Palestinians

Pro-Palestinian protests at Harvard Business School Oct. 18, 2023. (Fox News)

“Across the country and world, we are witnessing pernicious acts of antisemitism, including on college and university campuses,” Magill said in a statement. “I am appalled by incidents on our own campus, and I’ve heard too many heartbreaking stories from those who are fearful for their safety right here at Penn. This is completely unacceptable.”

The increased antisemitic incidents on campuses have led Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to call into question whether some universities should have their tax-exempt status revoked.

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“To say I am disgusted by statements of support for Hamas that we’ve seen in recent days is an understatement,” Smith said in a previous statement obtained by Fox News Digital. “Celebrating, excusing, or downplaying the horrific rape, torture and murder of innocent people is the same thing as supporting violence or even calling for it.

“Some organizations that have celebrated the unspeakable acts of terror that claimed the lives of 30 Americans and hundreds of Israeli men, women and children currently enjoy tax-exempt status in the United States, and their statements call into question the academic or charitable missions they claim to pursue.”

Harvard and UPenn did not respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment.

Fox News Digital’s Stephen Sorace and Hanna Panreck contributed to this report.





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