Liz Magill, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, has resigned in the wake of backlash and pressure from donors following her testimony at a congressional hearing on antisemitism. Magill faced criticism for her inability to explicitly state, under repeated questioning, that calls for the genocide of Jews on campus would violate the school’s conduct policy. The university announced Magill’s departure on Saturday, mentioning that she would continue as a tenured faculty member at the Carey Law School. She has agreed to serve as Penn’s leader until the appointment of an interim president.
The controversy emerged after Magill’s appearance at a US House committee hearing on antisemitism in which she, along with the presidents of Harvard University and MIT, faced questions about the protection of Jewish students on college campuses. Despite acknowledging that such speech could be considered harassment, Magill faced scrutiny for characterizing it as a “context-dependent decision.” The criticism extended to the White House, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, members of Congress, and donors.
Donor Ross Stevens even threatened to withdraw a $100 million gift due to the university’s perceived stance on antisemitism unless Magill was replaced. Magill later addressed the criticism, stating in a video that she would consider a call for the genocide of Jewish people as harassment or intimidation, and emphasised the need to clarify and evaluate Penn’s policies.
Magill had previously faced criticism over the university’s handling of perceived antisemitic incidents, including allowing a Palestinian literary arts festival in September featuring speakers accused of antisemitism. Magill, a former US Supreme Court law clerk, served as dean of Stanford University’s law school and held administrative roles at the University of Virginia before becoming Penn’s president last year. Governor Kathy Hochul of New York also called on colleges and universities in the state to address antisemitism cases promptly, emphasizing that calls for genocide would lead to swift disciplinary action.