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Donors, alumni demand Penn president resign over hearing remarks

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University of Pennsylvania alumni, students and donors called Wednesday for the resignation of Elizabeth Magill as the school’s president, a day after she testified at a contentious hearing of the Congress on anti-Semitism on campus and evaded questions about the violation by students calling for the genocide of the Jews. The Penn Code of Conduct.

Among those who raised questions about his leadership was Gov. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania, who said he found his statements “unacceptable.”

“It should not be difficult to condemn genocide, genocide against Jews, genocide against anyone,” Gov. Shapiro said Wednesday in a meeting with reporters. “I have said many times, leaders have a responsibility to speak and act with moral clarity, and Liz Magill has failed to meet this simple test.”

“There should be no nuance to it – she had to give a one-word answer,” he added.

When asked how the university should respond, the governor responded, “I think right now the board of trustees and Penn have a serious decision to make,” and urged the board to university administration to meet soon. No regular public board meeting is scheduled until February.

While the University of Pennsylvania is considered a private institution, the state’s governor is a non-voting member of the board of trustees.

The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Wednesday, Marc Rowan, head of the Apollo Group and chairman of the board of trustees of the Wharton School, Penn’s business school, wrote to the university’s board of trustees asking them to rescind their support for Ms. Magill.

“How much damage to our reputation are we prepared to accept? ” he wrote. “The call for fundamental change at UPenn continues.”

As of Wednesday, a petition calling for his resignation had collected more than 1,500 signatures.

At the congressional hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, said there had been protests in which students chanted support for the Intifada, an Arabic word meaning uprising, and that many Jews hear it as a call for violence against them.

Ms. Stefanik asked Ms. Magill, “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s rules or code of conduct, yes or no?”

Ms Magill responded: “If speech turns into behavior it could be harassment. »

Ms. Stefanik pressed the issue: “I’m specifically asking: Does calling for the genocide of the Jews constitute intimidation or harassment?

After some more back and forth, Ms Magill said: “This may be harassment. »

Ms. Stefanik replied: “The answer is yes. »

Mr. Rowan has for some time called for the resignations of Ms. Magill and Scott L. Bok, chairman of the university’s board of trustees. He began raising questions about the university’s leadership in September, citing a conference of Palestinian writers that Ms. Magill had allowed to be held on campus and, later, a lukewarm initial statement she issued in October against the Hamas attack on Israel.

Harvard President Claudine Gay has also been criticized by donors, students and alumni for her statements that calls for the genocide of Jews are a violation of Harvard’s code of conduct.

Dr. Gay said this type of speech was “personally abhorrent to me” and “contradictory to Harvard values.” But she said Harvard places “a broad place on free speech, even objectionable views,” and takes action “when speech escalates into conduct that violates our policies” governing bullying, harassment or bullying.

Harvard released a statement from Dr. Gay on Wednesday.

“Some have confused the right to free speech with the idea that Harvard tolerates calls for violence against Jewish students,” Dr. Gay said in the statement. “Let me be clear: calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or against any religious or ethnic group, are despicable, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will have to repay accounts. »

Her statement did not specify what would constitute a threat, or whether the slogans “There is only one solution: intifada, revolution” would meet the definition, as Ms. Stefanik argued during the hearing .

A spokesperson for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a free speech advocacy group, said the question of whether speech rises to the level of harassment “is a complex and fraught question.” facts” that arises from a pattern of targeted behavior.

“For example, it is difficult to see how the single statement that Rep. Stefanik asked about during the hearing — offensive as it was — could be admissible given this requirement,” the spokesperson said. word.

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nytimes

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