UPenn’s beleaguered Magill resigns; students, critics hail decision, call on university to tackle antisemitism

Magill will stay on as interim president until she is replaced, the university said in a statement.

Liz Magill listening at a Congressional testimony

File photo: University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill listens during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Washington. Magill has resigned amid pressure from donors and criticism over testimony at a congressional hearing where she was unable to say under repeated questioning that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate the school’s conduct policy. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

What you need to know

  • Penn President Liz Magill resigned amid mounting pressure after her congressional testimony on antisemitism drew backlash from students, faculty, and donors.
  • From funding strikes to hate speech and graffiti to doxing, here’s a breakdown of what’s been happening at the West Philly school.
  • The Education Department previously opened a probe into Penn and other schools over alleged antisemitism, Islamophobia.

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University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned Saturday following her controversial testimony before Congress Tuesday. Magill testified about antisemitism and the ongoing friction between groups aligned with Israel and those aligned with Palestinians.

When asked by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik if calling for the genocide of Jews constituted harassment, Magill responded, “It’s a context-dependent decision.”

The comment went viral and prompted criticism inside and outside the campus. Elected officials, including Pa. Governor Josh Shapiro, called for Magill to resign. State Senators including  Steve Santarsiero, a Democrat from Bucks County, said they wouldn’t vote for any appropriations for Penn until Magill resigned.

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Magill also received rebukes from the leadership of Penn Hillel. Two Jewish students filed a lawsuit against the university, calling the institution “an incubation lab for virulent anti-Jewish hatred, harassment, and discrimination.”

Large donors to the university joined those calls, including Ross Stevens, founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, who withdrew a $100 million contribution.

After Magill’s  resignation, Stefanik tweeted, “One down. Two to go,” likely referring to the presidents of Harvard and MIT, Claudine Gay and Sally Kornbluth, who joined Magill at the congressional hearing.

Given the controversy surrounding Magill’s tenure at Penn, students said they were unsurprised by her resignation.

“It’s the kind of comment where I wouldn’t be surprised someone resigned,” said undergrad Sebastian, who declined to give his last name. “She should have been a lot more careful.”

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Paree Pasi, who is studying bioengineering and economics, said Magill should have tried harder  to resolve the issues on campus before speaking in Washington.

“Find the kids who vandalized Hillel, find the kids who are drawing things outside of AEπ, the Jewish frat that we have here,” she told WHYY News. “Like you’re not doing anything.”

However, Pasi added that she didn’t think the situation would improve.

“I don’t think this is the solution,” she said. “The next president will come up, the same thing will happen, and we’ll run into the same issues.”

Jonah Perlman, a first-year student, said he thought Magill’s resignation would lead to change on campus.

“President Liz Magill has definitely not done enough to shed positive light on our university and build a strong and inclusive environment,” he said. “I would like to hope they will choose a stronger leader who can build solidarity and unity in our community.”

Magill will stay on as interim president until she is replaced, the university said in a statement. She will also continue as a law professor at Penn’s Carey Law School. The university announced Scott L. Bok, chair of Penn’s board of trustees, is also resigning from his position.

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