Sun 10 Dec 2023 12:20 pm - Jerusalem Time
US university president resigns after speaking on "anti-Semitism"
The president of the prestigious American University of Pennsylvania, Liz Magill, resigned from her position following a wave of widespread criticism that affected her against the backdrop of a congressional hearing on “anti-Semitism” in US universities after the outbreak of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.
Scott Bock, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia-based university, announced - yesterday, Saturday - that Magill “voluntarily submitted her resignation” and that she agreed to remain in her position until an interim president is appointed. A university spokesman confirmed that Bock, in turn, resigned from his position.
Magill was one of the presidents of three prestigious American universities who were subjected to severe criticism after their appearance - last Tuesday - before Congress in a hearing dedicated to examining anti-Semitism at universities.
The three presidents provided lengthy legal and ethical considerations and avoided directly answering questions that included asking whether the call to “exterminate the Jews” constituted a violation of student regulations at universities.
The statements of Magill, Harvard University President Claudine Guy, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth sparked angry criticism.
74 American legislators called for the dismissal of the three presidents, while the Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, considered Magill’s performance “shameful.”
One of the donors to the University of Pennsylvania announced the withdrawal of $100 million in support it provided to the College of Business Administration.
Yes or resign
During the hearing, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik asked the three presidents whether calling for the “extermination of the Jews” constituted a violation of university codes of conduct. Magill responded by saying, “If the speech turned into behavior, it could be harassment, yes.”
As Stefanik continued searching for a direct answer, Magill responded by saying that the decision on whether or not it was considered harassment would depend on examining the case when it occurred and the context in which it occurred.
The answer angered Stefanik, who told Magill, "It is not related to the context. The answer is yes, so you should resign."
Stefanik commented on Magill's resignation, and through the "X" platform she addressed the presidents of Harvard and MIT, calling on them to "do the right thing... the world is watching," alluding to the resignation as well.
The announcement of Magill's resignation came the day after Harvard University President Claudine Gay issued a public apology for comments she made during the congressional hearing.
She said in an interview published by the university's student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, "I had to have my mind at that moment to return to the truth that guides me, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community, and threats directed at our Jewish students, have no place at Harvard University, and will not pass without being addressed."
The Gaza war placed private universities in the United States facing a delicate dilemma: meeting the demands of their wealthy pro-Israel supporters, while at the same time preserving the right of their students to express their opinions in support of the Palestinians.
A number of wealthy Americans have, or at least hinted at, stopping their donations to prestigious higher education institutions such as Harvard University in Massachusetts and the University of Pennsylvania.
Likewise, officials at Columbia University in New York and Stanford University in California have faced demands to unequivocally distance themselves from pro-Palestinian student groups that accuse Israel of committing “genocide” in leaflets distributed during their movements.
Source: Al Jazeera + agencies