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$100 million UPenn donation at risk following antisemitism hearing

One university will reportedly lose a $100 million donation as college presidents addressed concerns about rising levels of antisemitism on campuses.
College presidents face backlash for House hearing on antisemitism
Posted at 2:22 PM, Dec 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-08 14:59:06-05

The Republican-led Committee on Education and the Workforce said it is starting an investigation after three college presidents provided testimony to the committee about alleged antisemitism on college campuses. 

Answers given in Tuesday's hearing by the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Institute of Technology angered some committee members, including Chair Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina. 

"The testimony we received earlier this week from Presidents Gay, Magill, and Kornbluth about the responses of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT to the rampant antisemitism displayed on their campuses by students and faculty was absolutely unacceptable," Foxx said. "Committee members have deep concerns with their leadership and their failure to take steps to provide Jewish students the safe learning environment they are due under law."

The fallout may cause financial ramifications for at least one of the institutions. Axios reported that Ross Stevens sent a letter to the University of Penn that he was appalled by Penn President Elizabeth Magill's answers on how the university handles allegations of antisemitism. Stevens is pulling $100 million in funding, as his letter states that the university's approach toward hate speech is too lax. 

SEE MORE: University presidents try to clarify stance on antisemitic rhetoric

The letter states that Stevens would reconsider the $100 million donation if the university hires a new president. 

The letter was sent after Magill attempted to clarify a viral exchange she had with Rep. Elise Stefanik. 

"At Penn, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn's rules or code of conduct? Yes or no," Rep. Elise Stefanik asked Magill.

"If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment, yes," Magill replied. 

The nuanced answer appeared to anger Stefanik, who asked whether someone had to actually commit genocide to be in violation of the rules at Penn. 

In a video statement a day after the hearing, Magill said that her answer should have focused on the "irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate."

Additionally, Harvard's president is apologizing for her comments during the hearing. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Gay said "I'm sorry," noting that her "words matter."

“When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret,” Gay said. 

SEE MORE: Musk meeting with Israeli leaders amid concerns over antisemitism on X

In late November, the Anti-Defamation League released results of a survey finding 73% of Jewish college students and 44% of non-Jewish students have experienced or witnessed antisemitism since the start of the school year. In a similar survey conducted in 2021, 32% of Jewish students said they had experienced antisemitism on college campuses. 

Last month, the Biden administration sent a letter to colleges reminding them of their legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI says schools must provide an environment free from discrimination based on race, color or national origin.


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