The Ivy League university is among numerous educational institutions, spanning from K-12 to post-secondary, currently under scrutiny by the Department of Education (DOE) for their handling of discrimination cases in the aftermath of the October 7 terror attack on Israel by Hamas.
According to a letter obtained by Fox News, Kristi Harris, the chief attorney for the OCR's Boston office, outlined that the investigation will examine whether Harvard's administration "failed to respond to alleged harassment of students based on their national origin (shared Jewish ancestry and/or Israeli) in a manner consistent with the requirements of Title VI."
Harris clarified the role of the OCR during the investigation, stating, "OCR is a neutral factfinder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from you, the University, and other sources, as appropriate." She emphasized that the initiation of the investigation does not imply any determination on the merits of the complaint.
The complaint could be resolved at any point during the investigation or through mediation with Harvard officials. Harris further cautioned that the University must not retaliate against any individual asserting a right or privilege under a law enforced by OCR.
In response to the investigation, Harvard officials told Boston 25 News that they "support the work of the Office of Civil Rights to ensure students' rights to access educational programs are safeguarded and will work with the office to address their questions."
The investigation's launch comes a week before Harvard President Claudine Gay is due to testify before Congress, alongside her counterparts from MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, regarding antisemitism on campuses nationwide.
Gay and other Harvard leaders have faced criticism for their alleged failure to address anti-Jewish hate and their delayed response to an open letter circulated by student groups. The letter seemingly blamed Israel for the October 7 massacre and referred to the attack as a "military action."
Lawrence Summers, former Harvard President and former Clinton Treasury Secretary, criticized the university's leadership in a statement. "The delayed Harvard leadership statement fails to meet the needs of the moment," Summers wrote.
He questioned the lack of moral clarity in Harvard's statements compared to their responses to George Floyd's death or Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Summers asked, "Why can't we give reassurance that the University stands squarely against Hamas terror to frightened students when 35 groups of their fellow students appear to be blaming all the violence on Israel?"