Penn president Elizabeth Magill resigns after a week of intense backlash

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  • Penn's president has resigned after backlash over her congressional testimony on antisemitism.

  • Elizabeth Magill faced calls to resign from donors and the board of Wharton, Penn's business school.

  • Magill has been president of Penn since mid-2022.

Elizabeth Magill, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, is stepping down following months of rising tensions on campus and among alumni. Her resignation is effective immediately, according to an email sent to the Penn community today.

Scott Bok, the chair of Penn's board of trustees, will also be stepping down, according to the school's newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Magill has been the subject of complaints from donors, alumni, and students for her reactions to the October 7 attacks on Israel and incidents of antisemitism, or purported antisemitism, on campus.

The criticisms escalated when Magill evaded a question during a December 5 congressional hearing on whether calling for Jewish genocide violated school policy.

Following the hearing, the board of Wharton, Penn's business school, called on Magill to resign. Separately, Penn's board of trustees met Thursday, and scheduled a second meeting on Sunday, the school's paper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, reported.

Magill's troubles started before the October 7 attacks by Hamas.

In September, students and alumni signed an open letter to the president condemning the school's Palestine Writes Literary Festival, which they said platformed speakers with histories of antisemitism. (Organizers of the festival denied that anyone involved embraces antisemitic ideas).

The letter was signed by 4,000 people and accused the school of not denouncing antisemitism at the festival.

Among the signatories were billionaires Ronald Lauder and Apollo CEO Marc Rowan, both alumni and megadonors of the school.

That incident received further scrutiny following the Hamas terrorist attacks — including from donors like Rowan.

He was the first major donor to publicly call for Magill's resignation. The private equity billionaire, who with his wife donated $50 million to Penn in 2018, urged alumni in October to "close their checkbooks" until the university's leadership resigned.

A number of other wealthy donors followed, some threatening to pull donations unless Magill — whose job, in part, is to fundraise for the school — resigned. Others halted donations entirely.

"Law and Order" creator Dick Wolf, who funded Penn's Wolf Humanities Center, endorsed Rowan's message in a statement to Penn's student newspaper. And the Huntsman family announced it would halt its donations to the school, as did hedge fund manager David Magerman.

Lauder, who had multiple times requested that Magill cancel the literary festival, said he'd stop donations to the school if it didn't take a stronger stance against antisemitism.

Magill, who has been president of Penn since mid-2022, responded to the backlash with a series of statements.

"The University did not, and emphatically does not, endorse these speakers or their views," she wrote in one email to the Penn community, admitting her mistake. "While we did communicate, we should have moved faster to share our position strongly and more broadly with the Penn community."

While backlash quieted down by mid-November they were reignited earlier this week following Magill's congressional testimony, which was slammed by the White House, members of congress, and business leaders — including wealthy alumni.

Clifford Asness, the cofounder of money management fund AQR Capital who had previously announced he would halt donations, criticized the remarks of Elizabeth Magill, Penn's president. In October, the to his alma mater following its response to the October 7 attacks on Israel.

"The presidents are flat out evil and deeply mediocre. They aren't even good at hiding their evil. Maybe they just don't care. I wish I could quit giving twice," he wrote on X, along with a clip of the hearing.

Elon Musk, a Penn alum who himself has been criticized for trumpeting antisemitic theories, called the universities "shameful."

Following widespread criticism, Magill walked back her comments, but the pressure has continued.

Wall Street CEO Ross Stevens threatened to pull an existing $100 million gift if Penn's leadership did not change. And members of Pennsylvania's state senate said they would not vote to fund the university's veterinary school until Magill resigned, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Wharton's board, which is chaired by Rowan, called on Magill to step down.

Read the original article on Business Insider