Liz Magill, University of Pennsylvania president, has launched a new initiative to combat antisemitism in the Ivy League institution. She was facing criticism from donors who wanted her to resign.
Magill's actions are the most comprehensive yet to be taken by him to deal with a crisis that has gripped one of America’s most powerful Universities.
Magill's leadership was questioned by alumni who were angered at a Palestinian literature festival that took place on campus in September. He stressed the university's dedication to combating 'this evil' on our campus and outside.
Magill, in an open letter sent to the Penn community, wrote that 'this is a very challenging time in the world and we feel its reverberations here on campus'. We can and will do more to fight antisemitism, and reject hatred in all of its forms.
Magill stated that the newly announced action plan was designed after meeting with Jewish leaders from around the country, as well as faculty, staff, alumni, and students. The plan will be centered on safety, security and engagement.
The plan calls for the creation of an antisemitism taskforce at the university, led by Mark Wolff. Wolff is the dean of the dental school. Magill stated that UPenn would also conduct a review of safety and security for religious centers 'in or around campus'.
'I'm appalled at incidents that have occurred on our campus. I've heard far too many heartbreaking tales from people who fear for their own safety here at Penn. Magill stated that this is a complete inacceptable situation.
Marc Rowan, a billionaire in private equity, has launched a campaign to get Magill out of his job after just a year. Rowan, Law & Order creator Dick Wolf and former US Ambassador Jon Huntsman have all stopped their donations to UPenn.
Magill stated that the engagement of Jewish students, faculty, staff, and alumni was an important factor in Penn's success as a top-ranking university. To see their sense belonging shaken by fear and hurt is intolerant to me. It's also galvanizing.
The decision to hold the Palestine Writes Literary Festival on campus in September prior to Hamas' terror attacks against Israel sparked the donor backlash. Magill had condemned antisemitism in general before the festival, and noted that certain speakers were known to make antisemitic comments.
Magill was under pressure from all directions after the controversial event announcement. Others, such as billionaire Ronald Lauder, wanted her to cancel the event. Magill was criticized by others, including UPenn faculty members and Jewish community members, for her criticism of the event.
After the Hamas attack on Israel, October 7, donor anger towards Magill boiled over.
The letter was written by Wolf, the Law & Order creator, to Magill in a month ago.
The Daily Pennsylvanian, a student newspaper at UPenn, reported that the organizers of the three-day Palestine Writes Festival denied it was antisemitic.
Participants and organizers agree that the festival was intended to promote and celebrate Palestinian culture through music, literature and art. Some speakers at the festival denied accusations of antisemitism.
Magill announced Wednesday that he plans to create a commission under the presidency to combat Islamophobia, and other forms hate.
Magill stated, 'I am aware that our Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs feel invisible and that their grief and pain have not been acknowledged.' They have also received harassment and horrifying threats. This is unacceptable, and it must be tackled with the same vigor.
The new measures may not be sufficient to stop the exodus.
Vahan Gureghian of Charter Schools, who resigned last month over the school's response in the Palestine Writes Festival, has called the new plan an 'excellent first step' to recover from the crisis that has "crippled" the university.
Gureghian, however, told CNN on Wednesday in a press release that he stands by his earlier call for Magill and Board Chairman Scott Bok's resignation.
Gureghian stated that it should not have been this long or so much pressure to get President Magill started on the plan. It also does not negate the total lack of leadership. 'I am happy to see there is an attempt being made. But I believe that the silence in the last few weeks is indicative of leaders who are just waiting for the storm pass. This is not a disaster caused by nature, but rather manmade. It requires strong leaders to take the difficult decisions.