Pressure is mounting on the University of Pennsylvania to take action against its president, Liz Magill. Trucks were circling the campus with billboards reading ‘Fire President Magill’. The trucks also played a looped clip of Magill’s congressional hearing testimony from Tuesday, with Rep. Elise Stefanik (D-NY) asking her: “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s code of conduct when it comes to bullying and harassment? Yes or no?” Magill responds: “It is a context-dependent decision, Congresswoman”.
The billboard shows pictures, names and ages of Israeli kidnap victims with the caption: “Here’s your context, Liz”. The board of advisors at the prestigious Wharton School at the University also joined the chorus saying they had lost confidence in Magill. They wrote in a letter this week: “As confirmed in your congressional testimony yesterday, the leadership of the University does not share the values of our Board … Nor does it appear to understand the urgency to address the safety of our students on campus,” according to the Wall Street journal.
That was echoed in a statement by the Undergraduate Executive Board, who wrote on Friday they are “unanimously supportive of the actions expressed and taken by the Wharton Board of Advisors. We stand as one with our Wharton Board of Advisor colleagues in our collective commitment to enact all measures necessary for change,” according to the statement seen by The Post.
On Thursday, UPenn’s Board of Trustees called an informal meeting online, after which a spokesperson said: “There is no board plan for imminent leadership change.” However, UPenn Board Members are planning another virtual gathering Sunday as the school remains in crisis over its leadership, The Post has learned.
It’s unclear whether the meeting – which comes after reports that Magill would be ousted Friday – will make any decisions on leadership changes at the school or whether it will simply be more hand wringing about the bad publicity. One source, who called the Board “spineless” says the decision to host another conversation Sunday comes after an executive committee luncheon Thursday in which Magill was reprimanded.
The handful of Trustees who met Thursday afternoon said in the meeting that Magill should “think about whether she can be effective” as President but declined to force her to resign, the source added. The board’s continued unwillingness to ax Magill is angering many who feel the only way for UPenn to salvage its reputation is to expel the existing leadership.
“Magill did it to herself.. I don’t have any sympathy for her,” one source said of their desire to get rid of Magill. The source added they believe ongoing pressure from Governor of Pennsylvania Josh Shapiro, who has been outspoken in his criticism, could result in her ouster.
“Leaders have a responsibility to speak and act with moral clarity, and Liz Magill failed to meet that simple test,” Shapiro told Jewish Insider. “Frankly, I thought her comments were absolutely shameful,” he said. “It should not be hard to condemn genocide.” “The Governor is not letting go… he wants her out,” the source added.
A spokesperson for the university did not respond to a request for comment. During Magill’s testimony Tuesday, she claimed UPenn has assembled a task force to “identify concrete actionable recommendations.” That plan includes hiring an expert who will help the university respond to antisemitism, Islamophobia and other hatred on campus, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer.
Immediately following her appearance, a federal lawsuit was filed accusing the campus of being a hotbed of antisemitism well ahead of Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault. A Canadian electrical engineering student who wanted to remain anonymous told The Post on Friday that students were stressed by the division on campus and the spotlight. He said Israeli hostage posters were constantly going up and being ripped down on campus.
“Every day the missing posters go up and then they’re removed,” he said. “A lot of students are extremely pro-Palestinian, especially on social media. It has caused a lot of stress. We’re constantly in the news and you can’t miss the truck constantly driving around with a big TV screen saying ‘kick out Magill’. We’ve started appearing in memes, saying the tunnels must be under UPenn.”
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