Numerous college presidents face criticism for their responses to anti-Semitism on their campuses. But no one more so than University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill.
some have asked for resignations of Harvard University President Claudine Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth after they testified alongside Magill before a House committee on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on campus, and the presidents did not they explicitly said that calling for the genocide of Jews would necessarily violate their code of conduct on intimidation or harassment. Instead, school leaders explained that it would depend on circumstances and behavior.
But Magill appears to be the university president most imminently at risk of losing her job, because Penn’s campus has been roiled by controversies over conflicts in the Middle East for longer than other schools, and multiple unsuccessful attempts to Magill’s attempts to satisfy critics have resulted in an uproar from donors and tumult on the school’s board of directors.
The University of Pennsylvania Board of Directors met Thursday to consider his status. But a university spokesperson on the record told CNN that “there is no plan from the board of trustees for an imminent leadership change.”
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Harvard University President Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, University of Pennsylvania President, American University Professor of History and Jewish Studies Pamela Nadell, and MIT President , Sally Kornbluth, testify before the House Education Committee hearing to investigate anti-Semitism on college campuses.
In September, weeks before the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, the University of Pennsylvania allowed speakers who the Penn administration acknowledged had a history of making anti-Semitic comments to participate in the “Palestinian Writes Literature Festival” on campus. .
In response to criticism of the university’s decision to allow the controversial speakers, Magill and other top university administrators issued a statement that attempted to satisfy both sides of the controversy but ended up angering both Israel supporters and Palestinians.
“We unequivocally – and emphatically – condemn anti-Semitism as antithetical to our institutional values,” the statement said. But he added that “as a university, we also strongly support the free exchange of ideas as a central element of our educational mission. This includes the expression of opinions that are controversial and even those that are incompatible with our institutional values.”
In response, 36 members of the school’s faculty, before the festival took place, signed a letter criticizing that statement and Magill.
“It is equally important for us as educators to declare our support for Palestinian artists and writers, making clear that we condemn anti-Semitism as well as Islamophobia and the oppression of Palestinians,” the letter said. “We ask that you, as leaders of the Penn community, immediately revise your statement so that it clearly supports a diversity of religious, racial, and cultural viewpoints and communities on campus.”
Numerous donors also approached Magill and the school about the festival and Penn’s lukewarm response. Weeks later, when Hamas attacked Israel and killed at least 1,200 people, that simmering resentment boiled over to a boil of anger.
Some prominent and deep-pocketed donors announced that end your support of the school If it remained, Magill soon afterwards issued another statement that attempted to unite the parties, but that did little to silence the criticism.
“I categorically condemn hate speech that denigrates others as contrary to our values.” Magill said. “In this tragic time, we must respect the pain of our peers and colleagues and recognize that our speech and actions have the power to harm and heal our community. We must choose healing, resist those who divide us, and instead respect and care for each other.”
But it’s that desire to keep both sides of the controversy happy that caused him so many problems. And the your testimony this week before a House committee hearing on anti-Semitism on college campuses.
When Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik asked Magill whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate Penn’s code of conduct, Magill responded, “It’s a context-dependent decision.”
was unleashed new calls for his resignation, including from Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro. However, despite its name, the University of Pennsylvania is a private school, not a state-funded school.
In a short video posted Wednesday night, Magill said the university would immediately review and clarify its policies on hate speech.
“I did not focus – but I should have – on the irrefutable fact that a call for the genocide of the Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence that human beings can perpetrate. It’s evil. “Plain and simple” Magill said in a video posted on X. “I want to be clear: a call for the genocide of the Jewish people… would be harassment or intimidation.”
Magill noted that anti-Semitic speech is designed to threaten and terrorize Jews and remind them of the Holocaust, pogroms and other recent acts of violence against them.
“As president, I am committed to a safe and supportive environment so that all members of our community can thrive,” Magill added. “We can, and will, get this right.”
But so far, few of his critics believe he has got it right, and calls for his ouster have only grown.