10th December 2023 – (Pennsylvania) Elizabeth Magill, the President of the University of Pennsylvania, has voluntarily resigned in the aftermath of intense criticism following a congressional hearing on the rise of anti-Semitism on U.S. campuses. Scott Bok, the Chair of the university’s board of trustees, made the announcement, and subsequently, he himself stepped down from his position, as reported by the Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus student newspaper.
Magill, along with two other presidents from prestigious universities, faced severe backlash for their testimony during the congressional hearing on campus anti-Semitism. Their responses, which were lengthy, legalistic, and seemingly evasive, drew criticism when questioned about whether students advocating for the “genocide of Jews” on their campuses violated codes of student conduct.
The backlash was swift and intense. Seventy-four lawmakers penned letters demanding the immediate removal of Magill, as well as the presidents of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, later apologized for not strongly condemning threats of anti-Semitic violence on her campus, expressing regret for the distress caused by her words.
However, Magill faced even more scathing criticism. The Democratic governor of Pennsylvania labelled her performance as “absolutely shameful,” and a major donor announced the withdrawal of a $100 million donation to the university’s Wharton School of Business.
Bok, who leads the university’s board of trustees, acknowledged Magill’s misstep and described it as “very unfortunate” in his statement. He attributed her response to being overly prepared and lawyered in the face of a hostile forum and high stakes, resulting in a legalistic answer to a moral question, which he deemed as wrong. Bok further explained that the sound bite from her response, lasting only 30 seconds, overshadowed more than five hours of testimony.
Bok’s resignation is effective immediately. In his communication to the campus, he mentioned that Magill would continue in her role until an interim president is appointed and would remain on the faculty of the university’s law school.