University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill has resigned after an uproar over her congressional testimony earlier this week, during which she refused to state unequivocally if calls on campus for a genocide of the Jewish people would violate the institution’s code of conduct.
Scott L. Bok, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, issued a statement saying that Magill had “voluntarily tendered her resignation as president of the University of Pennsylvania.”
“She will remain a tenured faculty member at Penn Carey Law.On behalf of the entire Penn community, I want to thank President Magill for her service to the University as President and wish her well,” he said. “We will be in touch in the coming days to share plans for interim leadership of Penn. President Magill has agreed to stay on until an interim president is appointed.”
Magill’s ouster comes five days after she appeared on Dec. 5 before the House Education and Workforce Committee, where lawmakers questioned her, along with the presidents of MIT and Harvard, Sally Kornbluth and Claudine Gay, about a recent rise in reports of antisemitic incidents at or near their schools.
Magill shared a brief statement saying it was “my privilege to serve as president of this remarkable institution.”
“It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s vital missions,” she said.
Bok himself resigned from his post not long after Magill’s resignation, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported.
“Today… I submitted my resignation as Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, effective immediately,” he wrote in a resignation announcement. “While I was asked to remain in that role for the remainder of my term in order to help with the presidential transition, I concluded that, for me, now was the right time to depart.”
In the aftermath of Magill’s doomed appearance on Capitol Hill, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro slammed her testimony as “shameful,” Penn lost a $100 million gift from a wealthy alum, and the board of advisers at Penn’s Wharton School demanded Magill resign.
“In light of your testimony yesterday before Congress, we demand the University clarify its position regarding any call for harm to any group of people immediately, change any policies that allow such conduct with immediate effect, and discipline all offenders expeditiously,” the board wrote in a letter obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian.
At Tuesday’s hearing, all three educators said they opposed antisemitism and that they supported Israel’s right to exist. However, when Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) asked if students “calling for the genocide of Jews” ran counter to their universities’ rules, none would give her a straight answer.
Magill, who appeared especially uncomfortable, responded, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment, yes.”
“I am asking specifically, calling for the genocide of Jews—does that constitute bullying or harassment?” Stefanik shot back.
“If it is directed, and severe, and pervasive, it is harassment,” Magill replied.
“So the answer is yes,” said Stefanik.
“It is a context-dependent decision, Congresswoman,” argued Magill.
Stefanik erupted: “It’s a ‘context-dependent’ decision? That’s your testimony today? [That] calling for the genocide of Jews is depending upon the context? That is not bullying or harassment? This is the easiest question to answer, ‘yes,’ Ms. Magill. So, is your testimony that you will not answer, ‘yes?’”
“If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment, yes,” Magill tripled-down.
“‘Conduct?’” Stefanik went on. “Meaning, committing the act of genocide?… Ms. Magill, I’m going to give you one more opportunity for the world to see your answer. Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s Code of Conduct when it comes to bullying and harassment? Yes or no?”
“It can be harassment,” Magill said, to which Stefanik corrected, “The answer is yes.”
Stefanik on Saturday reacted with glee to the news of Magill’s resignation, writing to X: “One down. Two to go.”
“These universities can anticipate a robust and comprehensive Congressional investigation of all facets of their institutions negligent perpetration of antisemitism including administrative, faculty, funding, and overall leadership and governance,” Stefanik continued. “@Harvard and @MIT, do the right thing. The world is watching.”
During the hearing, Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) said it was “wrong to suggest that antisemitism and Islamophobia are equivalent problems in this country,” making note of a pro-Palestinian march in Philadelphia on Dec. 3 that targeted a falafel shop owned by an Israeli-American chef and spilled over onto the Penn campus. The protest was soon condemned by the White House and Gov. Shapiro as antisemitic.
“Tonight in Philly, we saw a blatant act of antisemitism—not a peaceful protest,” Shapiro posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “A restaurant was targeted and mobbed because its owner is Jewish and Israeli. This hate and bigotry is reminiscent of a dark time in history.”
At Tuesday’s hearing, Good asked Magill if she knew of any such demonstrations in which people chanted anti-Muslim slogans on or around the Penn campus, saying, “Has there at any time since Oct. 7 been an equivalent large-scale gathering of crowds in support of the slaughter of Muslims or the elimination of an Arab or predominantly Muslim state?”
To that, Magill said, “Not that I’m aware of… Congressman, I abhor all acts of violence.”
Following the hearing, Wall Street titan and Harvard alum Bill Ackman tweeted, “Why has antisemitism exploded on campus and around the world? Because of leaders like Presidents Gay, Magill and Kornbluth who believe genocide depends on the context.”
Magill posted a two-minute apologia on X that evening, saying that she had not—but “should have been”—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.”
“It’s evil,” Magill said. “Plain, and simple.”
Penn’s Code of Conduct says the university “condemns hate speech, epithets, and racial, ethnic, sexual and religious slurs. However, the content of student speech or expression is not by itself a basis for disciplinary action. Student speech may be subject to discipline when it violates applicable laws or University regulations or policies.”
On Friday, the Committee on Education and the Workforce announced it would be opening a formal investigation into MIT, Harvard, and Penn, citing “deep concerns with their leadership and their failure to take steps to provide Jewish students the safe learning environment they are due under law.”
“After this week’s pathetic and morally bankrupt testimony by university presidents when answering my questions, the Education and Workforce Committee is launching an official Congressional investigation with the full force of subpoena power into Penn, MIT, & Harvard and others,” Stefanik said in her own statement. “We will use our full Congressional authority to hold these schools accountable for their failure on the global stage.”