UPenn president Liz Magill, board chair resign following anti-Semitism testimony

The Fisher Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania is shown in this photo from November. UPenn President Liz Magill submitted her resignation on Saturday in the wake of controversy over anti-Semitism on college campuses across the country. File Photo by AttaleianAnatolian/Wikimedia Commons
The Fisher Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania is shown in this photo from November. UPenn President Liz Magill submitted her resignation on Saturday in the wake of controversy over anti-Semitism on college campuses across the country. File Photo by AttaleianAnatolian/Wikimedia Commons
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Dec. 9 (UPI) -- University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill has resigned from her post amid harsh criticism in the wake of her congressional testimony last week about anti-Semitic harassment on campus.

UPenn Board of Trustees Chairman Scott Bok also stepped down from his job on Saturday as pressure mounted on Magill, Harvard President Claudine Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth after their testimony before a contentious House of Representatives hearing called by Republicans.

Magill has "voluntarily tendered her resignation" as president of the University of Pennsylvania but will remain a tenured faculty member at the university's law school, according to a statement issued by Bok.

"It has been my privilege to serve as president of this remarkable institution," Magill said. "It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn's vital missions."

Bok also has stepped down as chairman of the University of Pennsylvania's Board of Trustees, the board's executive committee announced Saturday.

Harvard University president Claudine Gay is among three academic leaders under pressure after their testimony this week in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. File Photo by Will Oliver/EPA-EFE
Harvard University president Claudine Gay is among three academic leaders under pressure after their testimony this week in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. File Photo by Will Oliver/EPA-EFE

Magill, Kornbluth and Gay stirred controversy after they testified Tuesday in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce at a hearing entitled "Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Anti-Semitism."

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., asked all three presidents during the contentious hearing if they considered rallies calling for genocide against Jewish people to be harassment worthy of action.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla. (pictured), and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., sent a joint letter Friday to the members of the governing boards of all three institutions. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla. (pictured), and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., sent a joint letter Friday to the members of the governing boards of all three institutions. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

In her testimony, Gay said the answer wasn't cut-and-dried and depended on context, such as if the speech is "targeted at an individual."

Magill, meanwhile, said it could be a violation of school policy if it was followed up by certain conduct, while Kornbluth such calls for genocide would be "investigated as harassment if pervasive and severe."

The presidents faced mounting pressure over the weekend after video of their equivocal answers to the question drew harsh bipartisan criticism.

On Friday, a group of 72 mainly Republican U.S. House members called for three presidents to be fired or resign.

Stefanik joined Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., in sending a joint letter to the members of the governing boards of all three institutions. The letter was signed by 70 House Republicans while Moskowitz and Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey were the only Democrats to lend their names.

"Jewish students should have found comfort on their campuses. Instead, many Jewish and Israeli students have faced an increasingly hostile educational environment, in the form of targeted harassment, protesters calling for the elimination of the Jewish state, and even acts of violence," the letter reads.

"This is a clear result of the failure of university leadership. To hold universities accountable, Congress held a hearing on confronting campus anti-Semitism. Testimony provided by presidents of your institutions showed a complete absence of moral clarity and illuminated the problematic double standards and dehumanization of the Jewish communities that your university presidents enabled."

It calls for the immediate dismissal of the trio of collegiate leaders.

"The university presidents' responses to questions aimed at addressing the growing trend of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses were abhorrent," the lawmakers assert, adding that all three "were evasive and dismissive, failing to simply condemn such action."

Following Tuesday's hearing, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School board sent an open letter to Magill, insisting she clarify her position.

Harvard's education department said at the end of November it was investigating a complaint of antisemitism on campus.

The university was also added to a list of 57 educational institutions, including elementary and secondary schools, that are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for "discrimination involving shared ancestry."

Unrest and protests have blanketed school campuses across the United States since Israel first began its current war with Hamas in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.