UPenn president resigns after uproar over Congressional testimony

Liz Magill couldn’t answer “yes” to question whether calls on campus for genocide of Jews broke the university’s code of conduct.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill resigned Saturday night following an uproar regarding her testimony before a Congressional hearing on campus antisemitism when she didn’t answer clearly that calls for the mass killing of Jews was unacceptable.

In her short statement that did not refer to the controversy, Magill wrote, “It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution. It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s vital missions.”

It was widely expected that a board of trustees meeting Sunday would lead to her firing, as wealthy alumni and politicians such as Pennsylvania’s governor alike protested her answer to Rep. Elise Stefanik’s question in the House Education and Workforce Committee meeting whether “calling for the genocide of Jews violate[s] Penn’s rules or code of conduct? Yes or no?”

Magill’s response was, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment, yes,” later adding, “It is a context-dependent decision.”

“‘Conduct’ meaning committing the act of genocide?” the New York Congresswoman shot back, incredulously. “The speech is not harassment? This is unacceptable.”

Two other Ivy School heads, Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also gave answers that equivocated about protestors’ right to free speech rather than immediately condemned genocidal talk.

This led 73 members of Congress to call for the immediate ousting of all three, and an immediate investigation into the virulent antisemitism being displayed their campuses, and others throughout the country as well, leading to Jewish students fearing for their lives.

Stefanik applauded Magill’s move, posting to X, “One down. Two to go. This is only the very beginning of addressing the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has destroyed the most ‘prestigious’ higher education institutions in America.

“This forced resignation of the president of @Penn is the bare minimum of what is required. These universities can anticipate a robust and comprehensive Congressional investigation of all facets of their institutions negligent perpetration of antisemitism including administrative, faculty, funding, and overall leadership and governance.”

Magill had tried to clarify her answer the day after her disastrous sound-bite, to no avail.

“There was a moment during yesterday’s congressional hearing on antisemitism when I was asked if a call for the genocide of Jewish people on our campus would violate our policies,” she posted to X Wednesday. “In that moment, I was focused on our university’s long-standing policies aligned with the U.S. Constitution, which says that speech alone is not punishable. I was not focused on, but I should have been, on 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.”

The backlash did not stop with verbal condemnations. One alumnus of the institution’s Wharton School of Business, Ross Stevens, saying that he would withdraw a $100 million gift he had begun giving his alma mater in increments in 2019 if she didn’t leave, and UPenns’ “permissive approach to hate speech calling for violence against Jews” wouldn’t change.

Chairman of the board Scott Bok resigned a few hours after Magill. Saying in his own statement that Magill was “not the slightest bit antisemitic,” but that having been ‘over-prepared and over-lawyered given the hostile forum and high stakes, she provided a legalistic answer to a moral question, and that was wrong.”

Magill had been under pressure for the last two months as her administration did not clamp down on anti-Israel demonstrations that erupted on campus after Israel declared war on Hamas following its invasion on October 7 in which its terrorists massacred 1,200 people, including the elderly and infants. Protests commonly included chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is widely considered a call for Israel’s destruction.

Even prior to the war, Magill was under fire for having allowed a Palestinian literature festival in September, which turned into an antisemitic hate-fest that was foreseen by those asking her to cancel it, considering the pedigree of several of the speakers.