Pressure grows on university leaders after Penn president resigns over testimony on antisemitism

BySelina Wang ABCNews logo
Monday, December 11, 2023
Pressure grows on university presidents after Penn leader resigns over response to Israel-Hamas War
Pressure is mounting on Harvard and MIT after the resignation of the University of Pennsylvania's president Liz Magill.

PHILADELPHIA -- The University of Pennsylvania's president, Liz Magill, has stepped down after her widely criticized House testimony, as the firestorm over alleged antisemitism on college campuses continues

Now, pressure is mounting on Harvard and MIT.

Magill stepped down Saturday after facing a barrage of criticism from donors, politicians and alumni.

"What they did in that hearing was absolutely repugnant, was outrageous [and] incomprehensible," said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

RELATED: Penn president Liz Magill, Board Chair Scott Bok resign amid firestorm over House testimony

All three university presidents are under fire for evading this question from Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.

"I am asking -- specifically calling for the genocide of Jews -- does that constitute bullying or harassment?" asked Stefanik, R-New York.

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

"So the answer is yes?" Stefanik asked again.

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

Magill apologized in a video posted the next day, but the damage was already done.

Penn's board chair, Scott Bok, also stepped down, but defended Magill in a statement, saying, "She made a very unfortunate misstep. She provided a legalistic answer to a moral question."

RELATED: University of Pennsylvania names new interim chair of Board of Trustees

Penn's Association of Professors also backed Bok up, saying, "Magill's intent was to defend academic freedom and open expression," and that "Stefanik's entire line of questioning misrepresented protests for Palestinian freedom as calls for genocide."

Despite calls for the other two university presidents to follow suit growing, Harvard's newspaper reported that, as of Sunday, more than 500 members of the faculty have signed a petition to the university's corporation opposing any action to remove President Claudine Gay.

This comes as more than 70 members of Congress demand they review and update their school policies to ensure they protect Jewish students.