University President Grilled Over Response To Antisemitism

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill last Saturday resigned following intense criticism from alumni, donors, and lawmakers after she appeared to dodge questions about campus antisemitism during a congressional hearing last week, NBC News reported.

Magill, along with the presidents of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was questioned in a 5-hour hearing before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on how the institutions have dealt with the rise of antisemitism on campus since the October 7 Hamas terror attacks.

When New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik asked the university presidents if calls for the genocide of the Jewish people violated their schools’ code of conduct, President Magill said it would depend on the context, explaining that only when speech “turns into conduct” is it harassment.

Magill’s answer was roundly condemned by alumni and donors, as well as lawmakers, many of whom demanded she step down from her post.

In a statement to the UPenn community on December 9, Penn Board of Trustees Chairman Scott Bok announced that Magill “voluntarily tendered her resignation” but would remain on the faculty of the Penn Carey Law School.

Following his announcement, Bok said in a statement that he was also stepping down.

In the statement, published by the Daily Pennsylvanian, Bok said he had concluded that it was “the right time to depart.”

Bok described Magill’s House testimony as a “very unfortunate misstep” but insisted that she was not antisemitic. He explained that the “relentless external attacks” on Magill had worn her down and, as a result, she offered a “legalistic answer” to Stefanik’s “moral question” that became a “dreadful 30-second sound bite.”

During the December 5 hearing, Harvard President Claudine Gay also gave Rep. Stefanik a similar answer as Magill’s, saying that it is only when “speech crosses into conduct” that it would violate Harvard’s policies.

MIT President Sally Kornbluth told Stefanik that she hadn’t heard of any MIT student calling for the genocide of the Jews but said that if the rhetoric was “pervasive and severe,” it would be “investigated as harassment.”