University of Pennsylvania Donors, Students Call For President to Resign After Congressional Hearing

University of Pennsylvania. (Bryan Y.W. Shin)

(Reuters) − University of Pennsylvania students and alumni stepped up calls on Wednesday for Liz Magill to resign as the school’s president, after she declined to say outright during a congressional hearing that calling for the genocide of Jews would violate Penn’s code of conduct.

An online petition demanding the university’s Board of Trustees accept Magill’s resignation due to her “inability to unequivocally condemn calls for the genocide of Jewish students and inability to identify these as harassment” had 2,500 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

“This equivocation sent a chilling message to Jewish students, emboldening perpetrators and undermining their sense of security,” the petition’s letter said.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, a nonvoting member of Penn’s Board of Trustees, told reporters on Wednesday that the board had a “serious decision” to make regarding Magill’s statements and whether they aptly reflect the values of the school.

“They have seemingly failed every step of the way to take concrete action to make sure all students feel safe on campus,” Shapiro said. “And then the testimony yesterday took it to the next level. It was failed leadership.”

A representative for Penn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Magill, Harvard President Claudine Gay, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth, who all testified before a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Tuesday, have come under fire from their schools’ Jewish communities for their handling of clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian contingents since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York took the lead on grilling each president about whether antisemitic speech would be tolerated on their campuses, and whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated their schools’ “rules or code of conduct regarding bullying and harassment.”

“If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment,” Magill replied. “If it is directed and severe and pervasive, it is harassment.”

Kornbluth and Gay gave similar answers, each declining to give a simple “yes” or “no” to the question posed by Stefanik.

Billionaire CEO of Apollo Global Management Marc Rowan, who gave $50 million to Penn’s Wharton School in 2018, renewed his demand to the Board of Trustees that Magill be replaced following her testimony, the New York Times reported.

“How much damage to our reputation are we willing to accept?” he wrote in the letter, seen by the Times.

A representative for Apollo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two Penn students filed a federal lawsuit against the university on Tuesday, accusing it of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and specific employees, including Magill, of being “responsible for the antisemitic abuse permeating the school.”

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