Some Pennsylvania House Republicans want to throw the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine a lifeline.
The state legislature voted against sending the veterinary school $33 million in state funding in the wake of antisemitic incidents at the University of Pennsylvania. The vote was also a response to congressional testimony from then-President Liz Magill in which she was unable to say that “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated the university’s policies, calling it “a context-dependent decision.”
Penn remains under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. That office on Wednesday added neighboring Drexel University to the list of schools it is investigating for antisemitism and Islamophobia.
In a letter to Penn Interim President Dr. J. Larry Jameson and Andrew Hoffman, D.V.M., dean of the veterinary school, House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said the legislators recognize “Penn Vet’s extraordinary contributions to veterinary medicine and our state’s agricultural foundation.”
Cutler wrote that while Magill’s resignation and the creation of a university task force to address antisemitism are “good first steps toward change, these actions have yet to help students and visitors feel safe and welcomed.”
He said a group of legislators will work with university officials to achieve the goals of rooting out antisemitism.
The members include Reps. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Fulton), the GOP chair of the education committee; Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne); Bob Mercuri (R-Allegheny); Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks); and Tom Jones (R-Lancaster/Lebanon).
For funding to resume, Republicans are demanding an unequivocal statement from the Penn president or interim president that “calls for genocide against the Jewish people are not consistent with the cultural values of the university and an affirmation that this type of conduct is actionable under Penn’s code of student conduct as bullying, harassment, and intimidation.”
Also, Penn should support a package of bills to address antisemitism in the state’s “basic and higher education systems.”
Penn must also support a discussion of other free speech legislation pending in the legislature. The letter recommended a review of the university’s student organizations to ensure there is no financial support for or promotion of antisemitism.
The letter noted Pennsylvania was founded in the spirit of “religious liberty and acceptance,” and Philadelphia “was created in the image of brotherly love and toleration.”
Marcell told DVJournal, “I will always work to stand against antisemitism in Pennsylvania and our education system. I look forward to engaging with the University and working in a bipartisan manner to what should be a shared goal of eliminating this insidious form of hate.”
While they remain “supportive of Penn Vet’s contribution to Pennsylvania,” they cannot spend taxpayer money on “hate-based activities that have become so disconcerting.”
A university spokesman issued this statement in response to the legislators’ letter:
“We have received Leader Cutler’s letter and will respond shortly—interim President J. Larry Jameson and Dean Andy Hoffman appreciate that members of the legislature want to find a path forward on funding the School of Veterinary Medicine. As part of Penn’s Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism, we pledged to engage broadly and deeply and welcome input from all who share our commitment to combatting hate in all its forms.”