University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania president resigns under pressure

Dec. 11, 2023
Liz Magill announced her departure amid intense criticism of her congressional testimony over antisemitism.

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill has resigned amid a backlash against her congressional committee testimony on antisemitism.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that calls for Magill’s resignation became more intense after her testimony Dec. 5 before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Asked whether calling for genocide of Jewish people violates the university’s rules or code of conduct, Magill, 57, a legal scholar and former University of Virginia provost, said, "It is a context-dependent decision."

Though she walked that statement back the next day, saying she does view it as harassment or intimidation and vowed to review Penn’s policies, it wasn’t enough to quiet a groundswell of criticism and harsh comments.

Soon after her resignation, Scott L. Bok, Penn’s chair of the board of trustees, announced that he was stepping down, too.

Bok said in his statement that Magill "made a very unfortunate misstep" during her testimony and that "it became clear that her position was no longer tenable, and she and I concurrently decided that it was time for her to exit."

He spoke highly of Magill and said he hopes another university will give her a chance.

Magill arrived at Penn on July 1, 2022, replacing longtime president Amy Gutmann, who had led Penn since 2004 before being named the U.S. ambassador to Germany.  At the University of Virginia, Magill served was executive vice president and provost for three years. She previously had served as dean of Stanford’s law school.

Trouble began for Magill earlier this year after the Palestine Writes literature festival was held on campus in late September and criticized by some for including speakers with a history of making antisemitic remarks. 

Some donors have withdrawn financial support over the university’s handling of the festival and its response to antisemitism, and called for Magill’s and Bok’s resignations. Tensions escalated following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, with frequent protests by groups calling for more support for both Palestinians and Jewish students.

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