University of Pennsylvania President Resigns

( – The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is looking for a new president after Liz Magill announced her resignation. Magill recently appeared at a congressional hearing on anti-Semitism on US college campuses and infuriated a Republican lawmaker with her evasive and unhelpful answers. She also provoked an angry backlash from within her own university and alienated a major donor. Although she tried to wriggle out of the controversy, in the end, she had to step down.

On December 5, Magill, along with presidents Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), appeared in front of a congressional hearing on anti-Semitism. During the session, Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) asked all three if a call for the genocide of the Jews would violate their universities’ policies. To her visible astonishment, none of them would answer with a simple “Yes.” Magill said it would only violate policies if “the speech turns to conduct, it can be harassment,” suggesting that actually committing genocide against the Jews can — not WOULD, just CAN — be harassment, but merely calling for it is fine.

That didn’t go down well with Stefanik, who looked like she could barely contain her horror as she vainly tried to get any of the three to admit that demanding a new Holocaust is wrong. Unfortunately for Magill, her lack of words didn’t go down well with UPenn donor Ross Stevens, who canceled a $100 million donation over her comments but said he’d reconsider his decision when a new president was in place. The board of Penn’s Wharton Business School also wrote to the university leadership demanding an immediate change of president.

So far Gay and Kornbluth have managed to cling to their jobs; Magill also tried to stay in her post, walking back her comments the next day in a groveling televised apology. However, the mounting pressure finally broke her; on December 9 she announced her resignation. She’ll stay in post until a replacement is found, but her days at UPenn are now firmly numbered.

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