Top US university president quits after anti-Semitism uproar

AFP , Sunday 10 Dec 2023

The president of an Ivy League university stepped down Saturday in the wake of a firestorm of criticism after a congressional hearing on the rise of anti-Semitism on US campuses.

FILE - University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill listens during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Washington.AP


The University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill "voluntarily tendered her resignation," the chair of the university's board of trustees Scott Bok announced.

Bok also stepped down himself, a university spokesman confirmed to AFP.

Magill was among three presidents of elite universities who faced withering criticism following their testimony Tuesday during a congressional hearing on campus anti-Semitism.

The trio gave long, legalistic and seemingly evasive answers at the hearing when asked whether students who call for the "genocide of Jews" on their campuses violate codes of student conduct.

The blowback was rapid and intense.

Seventy-four lawmakers wrote letters demanding the immediate removal of Magill and the presidents of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Pennsylvania's Democratic governor called Magill's performance "absolutely shameful" and a major donor said he would rescind a $100 million gift to the university's Wharton School of Business.

At Tuesday's hearing, Republican congresswoman Elise Stefanik asked each of the presidents if calling for the genocide of Jews violated university rules or codes of conduct.

"If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment, yes," Magill responded, according to a transcript on Stefanik's office website.

Stefanik pressed on: "I am asking, specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?"

"If it is directed and severe, pervasive, it is harassment," Magill said.

"So the answer is yes," Stefanik queried.

"It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman," Magill responded.

When Stefanik heard similar answers from the others, she erupted: "It does not depend on the context. The answer is yes, and this is why you should resign."

Harvard's president, Claudine Gay, apologized afterwards for failing to strongly condemn threats of anti-Semitic violence on her campus.

Anti-Semitism and hate crimes targeting Jewish and Muslim people have risen in the United States and on university campuses since the war on Gaza erupted.

With passions inflamed on campuses, a broader debate has taken place about the boundaries between freedom of speech and deeply offensive, even inflammatory language.

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