University of Pennsylvania president steps down amid criticism of antisemitism testimony #University #Pennsylvania #president #steps #criticism #antisemitism #testimony

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned from her post Saturday after facing intense criticism from the White House, lawmakers and high-profile alumni over comments she made during a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.

“I write to share that President Liz Magill has voluntarily tendered her resignation as President of the University of Pennsylvania,” Scott L. Bok, the chair of the Penn Board of Trustees, wrote in a message to the Penn community Saturday. “She will remain a tenured faculty member at Penn Carey Law.”

Bok’s message included a brief statement from Magill, who said in part that “it has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution.”

In a five-hour House hearing Tuesday, Magill and her counterparts at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were grilled over how their institutions responded to the rise in anti-Jewish hate since Oct. 7.

In their testimonies, the three university leaders each condemned antisemitism. The outcry centered on a contentious exchange with Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who asked whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate each school’s code of conduct.

Instead of directly replying to Stefanik’s yes-or-no question, Magill said that decision would be “context-dependent.”

“If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment,” she said.

Harvard President Claudine Gay responded to Stefanik’s line of questioning in similar terms. She testified that when “speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies.”

MIT President Sally Kornbluth said she had not heard of students on her campus calling for the genocide of Jews, adding that such rhetoric would be “investigated as harassment if pervasive and severe.”

In a two-minute video message posted Wednesday night on the social media platform X, Magill elaborated on her answer and condemned calls for the genocide of Jewish people in more unequivocal terms.

“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,” she said in the video.

“It’s evil, plain and simple,” Magill added.

Gay has apologized for her remarks. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson student newspaper, she said in part: “I got caught up in what had become at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures.”

“I failed to convey what is my truth,” she added.

The national outcry

The university presidents’ exchanges with Stefanik went viral on social media and drew furious criticism from political leaders in both parties, as well as Jewish community advocates, alumni and donors.

In a statement Wednesday, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said: “It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: Calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country.”

“Any statements that advocate for the systematic murder of Jews are dangerous and revolting — and we should all stand firmly against them, on the side of human dignity and the most basic values that unite us as Americans,” he added.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro told reporters Wednesday that Magill’s response was “unacceptable.”

“I’ve said many times, leaders have a responsibility to speak and act with moral clarity, and Liz Magill failed to meet that simple test,” Shapiro, a Democrat, said. “I think whether you’re talking about genocide against Jews, genocide against people of color, genocide against LGBTQ folks, it’s all in the wrong.”

The governor added that he believed the university’s board needed to make a “serious decision” about Magill’s leadership at the Ivy League university.

Ross Stevens, a Penn alumnus and the CEO of the financial firm Stone Ridge Holdings, sent a letter to the university Thursday threatening to pull $100 million worth of shares in his company that are held by the university unless Magill vacates her post.

In the letter, which was obtained by NBC News, Stevens cites Magill’s congressional testimony and says he is “appalled by the University’s stance on antisemitism on campus.”

Stefanik announced Thursday that the House’s Education and Workforce Committee was launching a congressional investigation with “the full force of subpoena power” into Penn, MIT, Harvard and other unspecified universities.

“We will use our full Congressional authority to hold these schools accountable for their failure on the global stage,” Stefanik said in a statement.

#University #Pennsylvania #president #steps #criticism #antisemitism #testimony

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