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UPenn president’s fate hangs in balance as angry board convenes for emergency meeting

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill’s job is increasingly at risk as university donors, lawmakers in both parties, alumni and Jewish groups have piled on criticism after her disastrous congressional testimony on antisemitism this week.

The Penn Board of Trustees will hold a meeting on Sunday at 5 p.m., the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, where Magill’s future with the school may be decided. 

The question facing the board is whether Magill can continue to effectively fundraise and lead the university after the backlash against her handling of antisemitism at the school since the October 7 attack on Israel. Pressure is building on Magill to resign after she declined to outright state that calls for the genocide of Jewish people constitute bullying or harassment under UPenn’s code of conduct during a congressional hearing on Tuesday. 

Magill, along with Harvard President Claudine Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth, was summoned to Capitol Hill to give testimony about rising antisemitism on their campuses before the House Education and Workforce Committee.


President Liz Magill

Liz Magill, president of the University of Pennsylvania, during a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, December 5, 2023.  (Haiyun Jiang/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

At the hearing, Magill told Congress that if calls for Jewish genocide were to turn into conduct, they would be considered harassment, adding that it was a “context-dependent” situation that would constitute bullying and harassment if “directed,” “pervasive” and “severe.” Gay and Kornbluth gave similar indirect answers that sparked widespread public outrage and have led to calls for each university president to resign. 

Magill in particular has received scathing condemnation from Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, the board of the Wharton School of Business and prominent donors, including an alumnus who threatened to rescind a $100 million donation to the school unless there is a change in leadership.

The Penn Office of the President and Office of the University Secretary did not respond to requests for comment. 

UPenn, Harvard and MIT presidents testify

Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, Liz Magill, President of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Pamela Nadell, Professor of History and Jewish Studies at American University, and Dr. Sally Kornbluth, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 5, 2023, in Washington, D.C.  (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

In a video statement posted Wednesday on X, Magill attempted to walk back her congressional testimony

“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. 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,” she said. 

“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 university president explained. 

“It’s evil. Plain and simple,” she stated.


UPenn is losing major donors

The University of Pennsylvania has faced heavy criticism over its response to the Hamas attack on Israel and to pro-Palestinian student groups. (Left: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images Right: (Photo by Paul Hennesy/Anadolu via Getty Images))

But the clarification has not satisfied Magill’s detractors. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D), who is Jewish, said Wednesday that her comments were “unacceptable” and that the school was under “failed leadership,” Jewish Insider correspondent Gabby Deutch reported on X.

The board of Penn’s Wharton business school demanded Magill’s resignation on Wednesday in a letter that cited her remarks and “collective failure to act” in response to anti-Israel and antisemitic protests on Penn’s campus. 

“Our Board has been, and remains, deeply concerned about the dangerous and toxic culture on our campus that has been led by a select group of students and faculty and has been permitted by University leadership,” the board said. “As confirmed in your congressional testimony yesterday, the leadership of the University does not share the values of our Board.”

On Thursday, Ross Stevens, founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, threatened to pull a $100 million donation to the school in a letter from his attorneys that said the university violated Stone Ridge’s limited partnership agreement through its failure to adhere to anti-discrimination and anti-harassment rules. 

Penn protest truck

A billboard truck on Penn’s campus calling for President Magill’s firing.  (Fox News Digital )

“Mr. Stevens and Stone Ridge would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further and give the University a chance to remedy what Stone Ridge believes are likely violations of the LP Agreement if, and when, there is a new University President in place,” the letter said. “Until then, there can be no meaningful discussion about remedying the University’s ongoing failure to honor its obligations.” 

That same day, the UPenn Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting, where some board members reportedly asked Magill to resign if she cannot effectively function in her role as the university’s president, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.

“If the answer is you can’t [function], we need to know that, and you ought to resign,” the trustees told Magill, according to the outlet’s source, who attended the meeting. 

Then on Friday, more than 70 House lawmakers sent a bipartisan letter to the governing boards of UPenn, Harvard and MIT, calling on all three to take immediate action to remove the respective presidents of each institution.


“There is no context in which calls for the genocide of Jews are acceptable rhetoric. Their failure to unequivocally condemn calls for the systematic murder of Jews is deeply alarming. It stands in stark contrast to the principles we expect leaders of top academic institutions to uphold,” the bipartisan letter states. “It is hard to imagine any Jewish or Israeli student, faculty, or staff feeling safe when presidents of your member institutions could not say that calls for the genocide of Jews would have clear consequences on your campus.

“If calls for genocide of the Jewish people are not in violation of your universities’ policies, then your universities are operating under a clear double standard.”

While Magill appears to be losing support from the Penn board, the governing board of MIT is standing behind President Sally Kornbluth with “full and unreserved support.” 


Harvard President Claudine Gay addressed the backlash against her remarks on Thursday, apologizing for what she had said, in an interview with the Harvard Crimson. 

“When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret,” Gay said. “I got caught up in what had become at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures.

Amid the national controversy, Stanford University on Friday issued a statement unequivocally condemning calls for Jewish genocide.

“In the context of the national discourse, Stanford unequivocally condemns calls for the genocide of Jews or any peoples,” the school posted on X. “That statement would clearly violate Stanford’s Fundamental Standard, the code of conduct for all students at the university.”

Fox News Digital’s Adam Sabes, Eric Revell and Sarah Rumpf-Whitten contributed to this report. 

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