UPenn’s President Liz Magill Resigns Following Antisemitism Testimony

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Liz Magill, president of the University of Pennsylvania has resigned amidst backlash to her handling of antisemitism at the university. Scott L. Bok, the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the university, announced on Saturday that Magill would be stepping down.

In Bok’s letter addressed to the Penn community, Bok said Magill “voluntarily tendered her resignation” as president. Magill will remain a tenured faculty member at Penn Carey Law and will stay on as interim president while the university looks to appoint a new leader, Bok added.

Bok also included a statement from Magill.

“It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution,” Magill said in her statement. “It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s final missions.”

On Tuesday Presidents Magill, Claudine Gay of Harvard, and Sally Kornbluth of the Massechutts Institute of Technology (MIT) testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. All three condemned antisemitism and anti-Palestinian hate, which they acknowledged had taken place on their respective campuses in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas against Israel and the subsequent siege against the Gaza Strip. However, the hearing generated a firestorm of controversy over Gay’s answer to questioning by Republicans over whether or not calls for genocide against Jews violated the school’s code of conduct. 

“At Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment?” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked.

“It can be, depending on the context,” Gay responded. When pressed by Stefanik to give a yes or no answer, Gay said that “antisemitic speech when it crosses into conduct that amounts to bullying, harassment, intimidation — that is actionable conduct and we do take action.”

Magill gave a similar response to Stefanik’s line of questioning, stating that “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment.” 

On Wednesday, Gay released a statement via Harvard’s social media addressing the controversy. “There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students,” Gay wrote. “Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.” On Friday, Gay directly apologized for her remarks during her congressional testimony  in an interview with the Harvard Crimson. 

While Gay has been at the center of the debacle, and the most publicly responsive of the three presidents, it was UPenn’s Magill who seemed most immediately at risk of losing her job. 

Magill issued her own apology for the comments on Wednesday, and stated that “in that moment, I was focused on our University’s long standing policies aligned with the U.S. Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable.”

“I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate.” 

Regardless, calls for Magill’s resignation continued to intensify. On Thursday, UPenn’s Board of Trustees met with Magill to discuss the situation. As reported by The Daily Pennsylvanian, while the board did not directly request her resignation, she was told to think “long and hard” about whether she could continue to function effectively as university president, and that “if the answer is you can’t [function], we need to know that, and you ought to resign.”

That same night, six Republican lawmakers issued a letter to the board calling for “the Board of Trustees to relieve President Magill of her duties as president of the university.”

The letter, signed by Reps. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), John Joyce (R-Pa.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), stated, “President Magill’s testimony is a clear reflection of the pervasive moral and educational failures prevalent at your university and other premier universities across the country…Sadly, she has shown the university and the entire world that she is either incapable or unwilling to combat antisemitism on the university’s campus and take care of its student body. As such, we respectfully call on you to relieve President Magill of her duties as president to protect the lives of Jewish American students at the University of Pennsylvania.”


On Friday, several Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania state legislate threatened to withhold $31 million in state funding for the university’s veterinary school, which is approximately 22 percent of the vet school’s budget. 

”I could not support their funding until someone could come into the university and shut down the antisemitism,” State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R., York)  told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “This is not a partisan issue. I will not vote to fund this institution until she resigns.”

Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/university-of-pennsylvania-liz-magill-president-resigns-congressional-testimony-campus-antisemitism-1234922363/

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