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Penn Vet Tries To Mend Fences With PA Legislature Over Campus Antisemitic Incidents

The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine sent a letter on Jan. 26 to Pennsylvania House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler in an effort to restore its state funding.

In December, 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.”

In the wake of that testimony, criticism from students and alumni, and the withdrawal of support from some significant donors, Magill resigned.

The letter, signed by Penn Vet interim president J. Larry Jameson, M.D. Ph.D. notes the school “provides world-class training to future veterinarians; exceptional clinical care to animals; vital diagnostic testing against devastating diseases; some of which also impact humans; and innovative research that benefits both animal and human health.”

As to the antisemitic incidents on campus that caused the House to vote to remove funding from Penn Vet, the letter notes the university’s division of public safety is working with the FBI and local police to investigate threats and violence. Two students and another person have been arrested.

Regarding faculty and staff, two Penn employees “have separated from university because of their behavior.” All complaints against employees have been referred to the proper disciplinary bodies.

The university condemns “hateful acts.”

The university’s task force on antisemitism has been asked to speed up its timeline for action items. Its Presidential Commission on Countering Hate and Building Community met for the first time on Dec. 19 and will meet again on Feb. 15.

The school supports the General Assembly’s bills to combat antisemitism and stands “clearly and strongly against antisemitism in all its odious forms,” the letter said.

Also, “Penn has investigated all reported acts of antisemitism on campus, and we will continue to do so, taking action in accordance with our policies and the law,” the letter said. “At this time, one student organization has an active case file with the university’s Center for Community Standards and Accountability. We have determined this organization did not receive university funding. We are following our established processes and remain committed to ensuring an environment where students can thrive.”

Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for Cutler, said, “We have had constructive dialogue with leadership at the University of Pennsylvania and hope to continue those productive conversations over the coming weeks as we work toward the shared goal of eliminating antisemitism and calls for the genocide of Jewish people.”

However, antisemitic incidents continue to arise at Penn. Most recently, DVJournal reported that Dwayne Booth,  a lecturer in the Annenberg School of Communication, has been drawing and publishing antisemitic cartoons since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Reacting to those drawings, Michael Balaban, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said, “Dwayne Booth’s cartoon dangerously invokes the classic antisemitic propaganda of the blood libel. At a time when antisemitism is on the rise across the country, these cartoons only serve to demonize and isolate the Jewish community, minimizing the legitimate threat of antisemitism. We call on the University of Pennsylvania to address Booth’s tenure to show that perpetuating antisemitic tropes should never be tolerated.”

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