• U.S.
  • Education

University of Pennsylvania President Resigns After Highly-Criticized Remarks in Congress

3 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

The University of Pennsylvania’s president, Liz Magill, has resigned from her leadership position following mass backlash over her remarks in Congress after she testified about antisemitism on college campuses during a hearing on Tuesday.

Scott L. Bok, Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees at UPenn, announced in a message to the school community on Saturday that Magill had “voluntarily tendered her resignation.” He added that Magill is to remain a tenured faculty member at Penn Carey Law.

In a brief statement shared at the end of the announcement, Magill said: “It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution. It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s vital missions.”

Bok later announced his own resignation from the school board in a statement shared via The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The resignations come after UPenn lost $100 million in funding following Magill's highly-criticized remarks in Congress. In a letter, shared online by Axios, the legal representatives of school donor Ross Stevens, CEO of financial services firm Stone Ridge Asset Management, said he was “appalled by the university's stance on antisemitism on campus.”

Magill was one of three college presidents called in front of Congress to testify how their respective school boards have handled antisemitic on-campus incidents amid the Israel-Hamas war. There has been an increase in the number of incidents reported by students following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack against Israel.

Alongside Harvard University's Claudine Gay, who later apologized for her testimony, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sally Kornbluth, Magill appeared before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to answer questions. 

During the hearing, Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik asked the college presidents: “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate [your university's] rules or code of conduct? Yes or no?"

Rather than say “yes” or “no,” each president gave a lengthier response. Magill said: “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment, yes.” When asked again if “specifically calling for the genocide of jews constitutes bullying or harassment,” Magill responded with, “if it is directed and severe or pervasive, then it is harassment.”

Asked if that meant her answer was a “yes,” Magill told Stefanik: “It is a context-dependent decision, Congresswoman.”

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce announced on Thursday that it was launching an official Congressional investigation following the presidents’ testimony.

After Magill’s appearance in Congress, UPenn’s Wharton Board of Advisors called for a change in leadership. Pennsylvania State Senators Steve Santarsiero and Doug Mastriano also called on Magill to resign.

Magill responded to the initial criticism on Wednesday via a video shared on the university’s social media profiles, saying she answered the way she did because she was focused on the university's policies aligned with the U.S. constitution "which say that speech alone is not punishable.” She said that she was not, but should have been, focused on the “irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate."

On Tuesday, two University of Pennsylvania students filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming it has become “an incubation lab for virulent anti-Jewish hatred, harassment, and discrimination."

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Olivia-Anne Cleary at olivia-anne.cleary@time.com