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Chairwoman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce Rep. Virginia Foxx during a hearing with Penn President Liz Magill on Dec. 5. Credit: Ethan Young

WASHINGTON — In an exclusive interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) reflected on Magill’s testimony before Congress and how the university presidents responded to hours of questioning.

Foxx, the chairwoman of the committee, gave an opening and closing remark during the hearing. Following the hours-long hearing, she expressed disappointment in the overall state of higher education.

“If higher education were doing its job, then I don’t think we’d have students demonstrating and being antisemitic,” Foxx said.

She added that there is a need for education in colleges about the Holocaust and the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

“They should know that what happened on Oct. 7 was barbaric and a second kind of Holocaust,” she said.

After the hearing, Foxx said she did not expect a “revolution” to take place on campus overnight, as the situation has been bubbling over for a while with resignations of trustees and the halting of donations by prominent alumni, she said. 

“You have the students running the campuses, basically, and the adults, just abandoning them, and not giving the moral clarity that they should be giving the students,” Foxx said.

Foxx added that she hoped for “responsible” trustees who hire presidents and open-minded faculty able to train students to be well-read and have a moral understanding to discern right from wrong. 

Foxx said she has had one constituent of hers approach her about the current environment of Penn’s campus, but she is aware of people who had expressed concern.

While Foxx was emphatic during the interview about how the Israel-Hamas war has worsened campus environments, Rep. Robert Scott (D-Va.), the Democratic ranking member on the committee, said in his prepared remarks that discrimination on college campuses did not start with the Hamas attacks, DEI programs, or any singular event.

“House Republicans are proposing significant cuts to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights budget — the very office responsible for upholding students' civil rights and investigating discrimination claims,” Scott said. “You cannot have it both ways. Calling for action and then hamstringing the agency charged with protecting students' civil rights rings hollow.”

Scott later asked how speakers are invited and approved to come to campus. Magill said that the approval process is decentralized and added that Penn does not censor speakers even if they are "offensive," although administration might condemn their messages.

Foxx also remarked on how the presidents have been serving in their roles at their respective universities for only a short period of time: Magill has served for the longest out of the three presidents with a tenure of over a year and a half, while Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth began in January and Harvard University President Claudine Gay began this past summer.

“It's pretty ironic that all three of these presidents have been [at their universities] a very short time,” Foxx said.

Foxx, addressing the theme of diversity, said that “diversity of thought” should be more strongly considered on college campuses.

“We should be hiring the smartest people, for the universities, whatever their sex, race, gender, other things,” Foxx said.