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Republican presidential candidates threatened Wednesday evening to cut federal funding from colleges and universities and deport international students who are encouraging “Jewish genocide.”
“Any campus that allows for antisemitism and hate and to allow students to encourage terrorism, mass murder and genocide, you should lose your federal funding to date, period,” South Carolina senator Tim Scott said at the third Republican primary debate in response to a question about what the candidates on the stage would say to Jewish students and college leaders.
The debate featured five candidates—all of whom are trailing former president Donald Trump in the polls. Trump wasn’t at the debate.
Colleges have seen a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia following the start of the Israel-Hamas war last month and mounting criticism of their response to those incidents. The candidates criticized the protests that have broken out on campuses in support of the Palestinian people. Scott and other candidates said they would cancel the visas of students who they say are supporting Hamas.
Scott said federal funding and visas are privileges, not rights.
“We have to stand strong with our Jewish Americans,” Scott said. “At the end of the day, we should not have our Jewish students in a library being told to hide … They have the right to go to college campuses, go to class and not fear.”
Florida governor Ron DeSantis touted his decision to “deactivate” some chapters of the Students for Justice in Palestine on public campuses.
“We’re not going to use tax dollars to fund jihad,” he said.
He also criticized the Biden administration’s response to the campus protests and increase in antisemitism, including the recently announced plan to combat “so-called Islamophobia.”
“Joe Biden should have the Department of Justice on these college campuses and holding the universities accountable for civil rights violations,” he said. “As president, I can tell you that we are not going to stand for this on college campuses any longer.”
Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur who is running for president, said the “scourge of antisemitism” is sad to see but a symptom of a deeper cancer in the country. But disbanding student groups isn’t the answer, he said.
“We don't quash this with censorship, because that creates a worst underbelly,” he said. “We quash it with leadership by calling it out. These university administrators have lost their way.”
Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said no person should have to feel in danger as some students have in recent weeks on college campuses.
“This is what I would say about our college presidents is if the KKK were doing this, every college president would be up in arms,” she said. “This is no different. You should treat it exactly the same. Antisemitism is just as awful as racism, and we’ve got to make sure they’re protected.”