The Lead

Penn President Magill resigns amid backlash following testimony before Congress about antisemitism

By: - December 9, 2023 6:15 pm

Elizabeth Magill, president of the University of Pennsylvania. (University photo)

University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill resigned Saturday, less than a week after her testimony before Congress about antisemitism drew widespread criticism.

“It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution,” Magill said in a statement posted to the university’s website. “It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s vital missions.”

On Tuesday, Magill appeared before the House Committee on Education along with the presidents of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The three were questioned by members of the committee about what kind of speech violates their schools’ code of conduct.

At one point, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), asked Magill if “specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?”

Magill initially replied “If it is directed and severe, pervasive, it is harassment.”

Stefanik said, “So the answer is yes.”

Magill replied “It is a context-dependent decision, Congresswoman.”

In a video posted to the university’s website Wednesday, Magill sought to clarify her testimony, but by that point, calls for her resignation, including from Gov. Josh Shapiro, had already begun.

Magill will stay on until an interim president is appointed, and will remain as a tenured faculty member at Penn Carey Law, according to a statement from Scott L. Bok, president of the university board of trustees.

“I want to thank President Magill for her service to the University as President and wish her well,” Bok said.

Later on Saturday, Bok submitted his resignation, and the board’s executive committee named Julie Platt, the vice chair of the board of trustees, as interim chair.

Update: This article was updated Dec. 10, 2023 to include the news of Bok’s resignation. 

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly