A 1988 University of Pennsylvania graduate is very unhappy with what is happening on campus. And he’s not alone.
The man, a suburban Philadelphia resident who asked that his name not be used, told DVJournal that despite denials from the university, he believes President Liz Magill will resign soon. And Scott Bok, UPenn’s board chairman, is also likely to leave.
Magill has been under pressure since she greenlighted a Palestinian writers’ festival with notorious antisemites like Roger Waters. Her first statement in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel, which appeared to equate those intentionally killed by terrorists with those unintentionally killed in military action targeting Hamas, sparked outrage from prominent Penn graduates.
After complaints from alums and donors, some of whom have said they will no longer monetarily support Penn, Magill issued a second statement clearly condemning Hamas and distancing the school from the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, which was held on campus on the eve of Yom Kippur.
“I stand, and Penn stands, emphatically against antisemitism,” Magill wrote. “We have a moral responsibility — as an academic institution and a campus community — to combat antisemitism and to educate our community to recognize and reject hate.”
It may be too little too late.
Donors such as Marc Rowan, Jon Huntsman, and Ronald Lauder, whose generous gifts have filled the Ivy League school’s coffers, are now threatening to withhold their largess.
At the time, area Jewish groups spoke out about the festival’s known antisemitic speakers and its proximity to where Jewish students would be praying on Yom Kippur.
Magill’s recent statement did nothing to change the views of the DelVal alumnus. He noted that after the first major donor pulled out, others began withdrawing their support.
“The university is going to be so financially impacted by this that they’re not going to be able to have her continue,” he said. Many alumni he is in contact with are fed up.
“Some of these protestors were aggressively chanting things, and I think the Philadelphia police hate crimes unit had to get involved,” he said. “It’s getting pretty serious now. Unless the university takes a stand, I don’t think it will end. And I don’t see how Penn can recover from this.”
He said his father was a student at Penn in the late 1940s after serving in World War II.
“Can you imagine if a group of students were walking down Locust Walk in support of the Germans? Right? That’s the analogy. Like a group of Nazi sympathizers shouting, ‘Death to the Jews,’ because that’s analogous to what you’ve seen over the last two days, and two professors were also participating.”
Rabbi Lance Sussman, rabbi emeritus at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, said political and financial pressure is being brought on universities.
“Universities should be places of open dialogue for all types of ideas coming from every direction. But as with free speech, there is a limit,” Sussman said on the DVJournal podcast. “You can’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater and calls for genocide and mass murder or apologetics for mass murder and butchery do not belong on a university campus. Campuses should be the place where ideas are tested, where there should be many points of view, but within the bandwidth of humanity.”
Penn alumnus and billionaire donor Clifford Asness, the founder of AQR Capital Management, wrote a letter condemning his alma mater.
“What has been going on at Penn is unacceptable. The problems began before the recent horrors. I have long been discouraged at the drift away from true freedom of thought at our best universities, including my beloved alma mater, Penn…Then, a few weeks ago, Penn’s hosting an antisemitic ‘Burning Man Festival’ pushed matters further…Imagine Penn’s actions if that event was against any other group other than Jews. Hiding behind free speech when it is a right only imbued by antisemites and other fellow travelers is not OK… You’re giving direct succor to evil.”
And a Tinder founder who was supposed to speak at Penn next month canceled his speech.
“I was supposed to speak at Penn in late November. I’m canceling. Penn needs to ensure that it is a safe and hospitable place for Jewish students—not an antisemitic cesspool. A change in leadership is necessary at this point,” Elie Seidman posted to X (formerly Twitter).
The University of Pennsylvania is hardly the only school with pro-Palestinian student groups. Locally, La Salle University students and Swarthmore students issued statements blaming Israel for the violence in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack.