University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill Steps Down Amidst Antisemitism Controversy

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill Steps Down Amidst Antisemitism Controversy

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill voluntarily stepped down from her role on Saturday following intense criticism stemming from a House Education committee hearing earlier in the week. The decision came after a grueling session where Magill, along with Harvard President Claudine Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth, faced scrutiny over their response to antisemitism on their respective campuses.

The committee’s questioning, lasting over five hours, included a pointed query from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) about pro-Palestinian student protestors’ calls for “intifada” or “the genocide of Jews.” Magill’s response, stating that if speech turns into conduct, it can be considered harassment, drew significant backlash.

Magill’s resignation announcement came alongside the departure of Penn Trustee Board Chair Scott Bok. The university has expressed its commitment to ensuring a smooth transition, with Magill remaining in her role until an interim president is selected.

The House Education Committee hearing raised broader concerns about campus policies regarding antisemitism, with lawmakers criticizing the presidents for not unequivocally condemning calls for the “genocide of Jews.” The incident prompted an online petition, signed by hundreds of Penn alumni, donors, and students, calling for Magill’s resignation.

Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman, as well as Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, condemned Magill’s comments, with Shapiro characterizing them as a “failure of leadership.”

Magill, in response to the backlash, released a video statement apologizing for her testimony and pledging a review of university policies.

The Wharton Board of Advisors and the Board of Trustees held discussions and an emergency gathering, respectively, amid growing calls for new university leadership. More than 70 lawmakers urged Harvard, MIT, and Penn boards to remove their presidents, while a group of Democrats urged a focus on updating campus policies.

Magill, who had served in the role for about a year and a half, will maintain a tenured faculty position at Penn Carey Law. Her resignation marks a significant development in addressing concerns about antisemitism and highlights the broader challenges faced by university leaders in navigating free speech and campus policies.

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