University of Pennsylvania president resigns after antisemitism testimony

University of Pennsylvania president resigns after antisemitism testimony

WASHINGTON — University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, who came under fire for her stance on antisemitism on campus, has resigned, the Ivy League school said on Saturday.

Ms. Magill was one of three top university presidents who were criticized after they testified at a congressional hearing on Tuesday about a rise in antisemitism on college campuses following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

She has agreed to stay on until an interim president is appointed, Scott Bok, chair of the Philadelphia-based university’s board of trustees, said on Saturday in a statement posted on the university’s website. Mr. Bok also stepped down.

“I write to share that President Liz Magill has voluntarily tendered her resignation as President of the University of Pennsylvania,” Mr. Bok said in the announcement released by the university. Ms. Magill will remain a tenured faculty member at the university’s law school, Mr. Bok said.

Ms. Magill, Harvard University President Claudine Gay, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) President Sally Kornbluth testified before a US House of Representatives committee on Tuesday.

As they tried to walk a line that protected freedom of speech, they declined to give a definitive “yes” or “no” answer to Republican Representative Elise Stefanik’s question of whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their schools’ codes of conduct regarding bullying and harassment.

Calls for Ms. Magill’s and Ms. Gay’s resignations in particular mounted in the days after that testimony. Ms. Magill released a video on Wednesday in which she expressed regret, Ms. Gay apologized on Friday.

Jewish students, families and alumni have accused the schools of tolerating antisemitism, especially in statements by pro-Palestinian demonstrators since the Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and killed around 1,200. That attack prompted a massive counterattack by Israel that has left over 17,700 Palestinians dead, according to the Gaza health ministry.

“One down. Two to go. This is only the very beginning of addressing the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has destroyed the most ‘prestigious’ higher education institutions in America,” Ms. Stefanik said on social media site X after Penn’s announcement.

She said Ms. Magill’s resignation was the “bare minimum of what is required” and urged Harvard and MIT to take similar action.

Antisemitism and Islamophobia have risen sharply in the United States and elsewhere since October.

Antisemitic incidents in the United States rose by about 400% in the two weeks after the Hamas attack on Israel, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said this week that in the two months after the war began, incidents motivated by Islamophobia and bias against Palestinians and Arabs rose by 172% compared with the same period last year. 

Eyal Yakoby, a University of Pennsylvania student who has sued the school alleging insufficient response to antisemitism, said on CNN that Ms. Magill’s resignation was one step toward a broader change at the university.

“This has been something that myself and many alumni and fellow students, parents been working on for a while… (but) this is just the first domino in a culture for many leaders including Chairman Bok who have allowed this to happen,” Yakoby said. — Reuters