After a disastrous appearance before a U.S. House committee, Liz Magill’s time as the University of Pennsylvania president may be coming to an end. Calls for her resignation have come from across the political spectrum. Six GOP members of the Pennsylania congressional delegation are demanding her resignation, as is Florida Democrat Rep. Jared Moskowitz.
Even the board of Penn’s Wharton business school is calling on Magill to go.
But not Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. His office tells DVJournal he’s leaving that decision to the UPenn board.
Meanwhile, Casey’s likely opponent in next year’s election, Republican Dave McCormick, isn’t holding back.
“Magill was repeatedly asked if calling for the genocide of Jews violates Penn’s rules or code of conduct, and she repeatedly failed to answer affirmatively,” McCormick said in a statement. “This is completely unacceptable from the leader of one of America’s top universities…[Magill] lacks the depth, understanding, and awareness of how antisemitism is real and how it must be fought.”
McCormick said it is “a scary time for the Jewish community,” and people in a “position of power must unequivocally support them and put a stop to antisemitism.”
While Casey used social media to condemn Magill’s words, he still declined to call for her to go. The Democrat posted on social media that Magill’s comments “were offensive…The right to free speech is fundamental, but calling for the genocide of Jews is antisemitic and harassment, full stop.”
But when asked if Casey wanted her to resign, a spokesperson told DVJournal the senator is willing to let the school decide. “Like Gov. Shapiro, Sen. Casey wants UPenn’s board to meet and determine whether President Magill’s comments align with the university’s values.”
Magill’s future with Penn is up in the air. The board of trustees held an emergency meeting Thursday, and CNN reports she narrowly survived with her job — for the moment. She remains school president, although it has been reported that she’ll meet with Penn’s Board of Trustees chair about possibly resigning.
Critics are particularly angry that Magill did not answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when asked by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) if “calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s rules of or code of conduct.”
Instead, Magill called it “a context-dependent decision.”
After a massive backlash that included criticism from both Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-Pa.) and President Joe Biden, Magill released a video saying that “speech alone is not punishable.” Magill then said that “a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It’s evil, plain and simple…
“In today’s world, where we are seeing signs of hate proliferating across our hate and our world in a way not seen in years, these policies need to be clarified and evaluated,” Magill continued. “Penn must initiate a serious and careful look at our policies.”
Her second statement received criticism from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).
“Were Penn to retreat from the robust protection of expressive rights, university administrators would make inevitably political decisions about who may speak and what may be said on campus,” FIRE said in a statement. “Such a result would undoubtedly compromise the knowledge-generating process free expression enables and for which universities exist.”
The group is pessimistic that universities would enforce any rule that banned calls for genocide. “Dissenting and unpopular speech — whether pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, conservative or liberal — will be silenced…The power to censor always invites abuse and never stays cabined.”
FIRE was co-founded by a Penn history professor who advised an Israeli-born Jewish student accused of harassment in 1993 for yelling at sorority students. Charges were dropped against the student, and Penn reformed its speech rules.
FIRE worries these reforms may go away. “President Magill suggests an institutional willingness to abandon free expression altogether. This will not end well.”
There’s momentum behind Magill’s resignation or ousting.
One alumnus pulled a $100 million gift to UPenn due to Magill’s appearance. The attorneys for Ross L. Stevens sent a letter to the school’s attorney on Thursday.
“Its 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 of rules that prohibit harassment and discrimination based on religion, including those of Stone Ridge,” wrote Stevens’ lawyers. “[We have] reason to believe that the University’s actions (or lack thereof)…gives [us]…the ability [to terminate the agreement].”
The donation was meant for the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance. Stevens and his attorneys do not plan to speak with Penn unless Magill is replaced. “Until then, there can be no meaningful discussion about remedying the University’s ongoing failure to honor its obligations.”
The Wharton Board of Advisors also sent Penn a letter calling for a leadership change. They believe a “dangerous and toxic culture” at Penn needs to be fixed. Congress may also investigate Penn and its policy and disciplinary records.