Penn president regrets dodging questions about calls for Jewish genocide

Magill said she should have focused on the ‘evil’ of statements supporting genocide rather than looking at them in the context of protecting freedom of speech.

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

After facing calls to resign, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill has vowed to review the university’s code of conduct regarding student harassment after her widely criticized statements during a congressional hearing on antisemitism.

Magill insisted that she should have focused on the ‘evil’ of statements supporting genocide rather than looking at them in the context of protecting freedom of speech.

The calls for Magill’s resignation began following the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s hearing titled “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism.”

The hearing was intended to address the alarming increase in antisemitic incidents across the United States, particularly on university campuses.

In one of the most noteworthy moments in the hearing, presidents from MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard were asked if calling for an intifada in Israel and the genocide of Jews constituted harassment according to their university’s code of conduct.

None of the three presidents–Claudine Gay of Harvard, Liz Magill of Penn, and Sally Kornbluth of MIT was able to give a definitive answer, with many saying it would depend on the context, if the statements led directly to physical action or if they were directed at an individual rather than a group.

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Rather than giving a yes or no answer, Magill replied, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment,” Magill replied. “If it is directed and severe and pervasive, it is harassment.”

Walking back her replies, Magill said in the video, “I want to be clear. A call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening, deeply so,” Magill said.

“It is intentionally meant to terrify a people who have been subjected to pogroms and hatred for centuries, and were the victims of mass genocide in the Holocaust. In my view, it would be harassment or intimidation,” she added.

Magill vowed that she and Provost John Jackson would evaluate and clarify campus policy, saying, “We can and will get this right.”

The equivocation at the hearing was met with criticism from the White House and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In less than 24 hours after the hearing, an online petition that decried Magill’s “inability to unequivocally condemn calls for the genocide of Jewish students and inability to identify these as harassment” had already received 2,500 signatures.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, a nonvoting member of Penn’s Board of Trustees, said the Board had a “serious decision” to make about Magill’s future as president of the university.

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“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.”