Embattled UPenn President Liz Magill, Board Chair Scott Bok resign after congressional anti-Semitism testimony backlash

News & Politics

University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill resigned on Saturday following her disastrous testimony during a congressional hearing on campus anti-Semitism. UPenn Board Chair Scott Bok also resigned on Saturday.

“I write to share that President Liz Magill has voluntarily tendered her resignation as President of the University of Pennsylvania,” Scott L. Bok – the chair of the Penn Board of Trustees – stated on Saturday. “She will remain a tenured faculty member at Penn Carey Law.”

The message included a quote from Magill that read: “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 also tendered his resignation.

“Today, following the resignation of the University of Pennsylvania’s President and related Board of Trustee meetings, I submitted my resignation as Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, effective immediately,” Bok said in a statement. “While I was asked to remain in that role for the remainder of my term in order to help with the presidential transition, I concluded that, for me, now was the right time to depart.”

Bok noted that Magill, as well as the presidents of Harvard and MIT, made a very “unfortunate misstep” during their congressional testimony.

Bok added, “Following that, it became clear that her position was no longer tenable, and she and I concurrently decided that it was time for her to exit.”

Bok said Magill was “worn down by months of relentless external attacks” and “not herself” during the congressional testimony.

Magill has been ripped to shreds for the remarks she made during a congressional hearing investigating anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) bluntly asked Magill if “calling for the genocide of Jews violate[s] Penn’s rules or code of conduct? Yes or no?”

Magill responded, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment. Yes.”

Magill later added, “It is a context-dependent decision.”

Stefanik chewed out Magill, “This is unacceptable. Ms. Magill. I’m gonna give you one more opportunity for the world to see your answer. Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s code of conduct when it comes to bullying and harassment? Yes or no?”

The former UPenn president replied, “It can be harassment.”

Magill’s unassertive responses ignited a firestorm of criticism.

Magill attempted to walk back her comments the day after her testimony.

“There was a moment during yesterday’s congressional hearing on antisemitism when I was asked if a call for the genocide of Jewish people on our campus would violate our policies,” Magill said in a damage-control statement. “In that moment, I was focused on our university’s long-standing policies aligned with the U.S. Constitution, which says that speech alone is not punishable,” Magill said. “I was not focused on, but I should have been, 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. It’s evil — plain and simple.”

Magill conceded that calls for the genocide of Jewish people “would be harassment or intimidation.”

Magill’s counterparts at Harvard President Claudine Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth have also faced a barrage of condemnation for saying that calls for a genocide of Jews would depend on the “context” if it violated the code of conduct at the universities.

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