The president of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) is under fire after a prominent alumnus decided to withdraw a $100 million donation to the school.
The loss is directly related to President Liz Magill’s testimony in front of a U.S. House committee investigating antisemitism on campus, in which she appeared to equivocate on the issue.
During an appearance before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Magill, 57, would not definitely say any action will be taken against students or faculty calling for a genocide against Jews, according to CNN.
The Penn president was already under fire by alumni and board members because of what CNN characterizes as a “tepid” response to threats against Jewish students on campus.
The result is that Ross Stevens, founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, has withdrawn from an agreement with Penn that gave the university the use of $100 million worth of stock, according to Axios.
“[Penn’s] permissive approach to hate speech calling for violence against Jews and laissez faire attitude toward harassment and discrimination against Jewish students would violate any policies or rules that prohibit harassment and discrimination based on religion, including those of Stone Ridge,” said Stevens’ attorneys in a letter to the university, reported Axios.
While the letter left open the possibility that a discussion between Stevens and the school might lead to a compromise, Axios reported that sources close to Stevens confirmed that he’s definitely withdrawing the donation.
Under questioning by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, Magill said that the university would only take action against people advocating genocide against Jews by noting that “if the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment,” reported the Washington Post.
“It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman,” said Magill.
Stefanik’s questions met similar responses by the heads of MIT and Harvard, prompting the New York representative to say that each of the three university presidents should resign, said the New York Times.
“It does not depend on the context. The answer is yes, and this is why you should resign. These are unacceptable answers across the board,” said Stefanik.
Even liberals were outraged by the bizarre answers from these top-academics.
“It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: Calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country,” said White House spokesman Andrew Bates, according to NBC News.
The Democrat governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, noted that the answers from Magill represent a failure of leadership.
“If that doesn’t violate the policies of Penn, well, there’s something wrong with the policies of Penn that the board needs to get on, or there’s a failure of leadership from the president, or both,” Shapiro said at a news conference, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In a later video, Magill tried to mitigate the damage by saying that her answers were a defense of free speech under the U.S. Constitution, but she failed to note that the right to free speech does not include the right to incite violence (Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444- 1969).
But Stevens’ latest salvo against Penn may be the last straw for alumni who have been concerned about the direction of the university.
The Times reported previously that alumni were putting pressure on Penn to fire Magill over concerns about antisemitism and prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies on campus, even before the firestorm created by her congressional testimony.
In fact, two people close to Stevens confirmed to the Times that Penn’s business school, Wharton, already lost a separate $100 million contribution from the asset manager to the University of Chicago over Stevens’ concerns about DEI at Penn.
Thursday, Penn’s board of trustees held an emergency meeting which reportedly lasted for hours, Fox News reported. No news of any decisions during that meeting have been reported.