University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill has resigned amidst backlash over her handling of a question on campus antisemitism during a congressional hearing. The announcement of Magill’s resignation was made by Scott L. Bok, Chair of the Penn Board of Trustees, who also revealed his own resignation.
During the hearing, Magill and representatives from Harvard University and MIT faced scrutiny regarding how their respective institutions responded to the alarming rise in antisemitism. The controversy stemmed from a question posed by Rep. Elise Stefanik, who asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate the schools’ code of conduct.
Magill’s response, stating that it would be “context-dependent,” drew further criticism. Bok, although commending Magill’s leadership, acknowledged that her answer was a misstep, describing it as a “dreadful 30-second sound bite.”
In an attempt to clarify her stance, Magill later released a video message unequivocally condemning calls for the genocide of Jewish people and apologizing for her previous response. However, the exchanges with Stefanik generated extensive attention on social media, attracting criticism from political leaders, advocates in the Jewish community, alumni, and donors.
The White House also weighed in on the matter, with spokesman Andrew Bates denouncing calls for genocide. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro labeled Magill’s initial response as “unacceptable.” The pressure intensified when Penn alumnus Ross Stevens threatened to withdraw $100 million worth of shares from his company, held by the university, unless Magill relinquished her position.
Billionaire investor Bill Ackman joined the chorus of critics on social media, calling for Magill’s ouster. Responding to the escalating situation, Rep. Stefanik announced that the House’s Education and Workforce Committee would investigate Penn, Harvard, MIT, and other universities.
As the controversy surrounding this issue continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how these institutions will navigate the growing concerns about antisemitism on campus and the appropriate responses to such challenges.