University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigns

 University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, who came under fire for her stance on antisemitism on her institution’s campus, has “tendered her resignation,” according to a message sent on Saturday by the chair of the Ivy League school’s board of trustees.

Magill was one of three presidents of top universities who were criticized after they testified at a congressional hearing about a rise in antisemitism on college campuses following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

She has agreed to stay on until an interim president is appointed, Scott Bok, chair of the Philadelphia-based university’s board of trustees, said on Saturday.

“I write to share that President Liz Magill has voluntarily tendered her resignation as President of the University of Pennsylvania. She will remain a tenured faculty member at Penn Carey Law,” Bok said.

Magill was among top university presidents under fire over dissatisfaction with their testimony at a congressional hearing about antisemitism on college campuses. She testified alongside Sally Kornbluth, the president of MIT, and Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard.

House Education and The Workforce Committee hearing titled ”Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism” on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, December 5, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/KEN CEDENO)

Magill came under fire for her testimony to Congress about antisemitism on campus

At the hearing, Magill denounced antisemitism and called certain slogans at anti-Israel rallies “very disturbing” and “hateful speech.”

But, she said, universities are obligated to protect students’ freedom of speech. Incitement to violence, which would render speech unprotected by the First Amendment, “is a very narrow category,” she said. 


When Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York, asked the university presidents whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate their schools’ policies against bullying and harassment, Magill replied that “it is a context-dependent decision.

“If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment,” said Magill, who is a legal scholar. “If it is directed and severe and pervasive, it is harassment.”

The answer, and those along similar lines by the other university presidents, immediately sparked outrage from the Jewish community and beyond.

In a video statement posted after the hearing, Magill said that she should have focused more on the “evil” of advocating genocide, instead of framing the matter as an issue of free speech in line with the US Constitution and traditions of on-campus debate.

“I want to be clear. A call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening, deeply so,” Magill said.

Board of Trustees Chair resigns, defends Magill in statement

Shortly after the announcement of Magill’s resignation, Scott Bok, Char of the Penn Board of Trustees, announced his own resignation, connecting it to the president’s departure.

“Former President Liz Magill last week made a very unfortunate misstep—consistent with that of two peer university leaders sitting alongside her—after five hours of aggressive questioning before a Congressional committee,” Bok said.

“The world should know that Liz Magill is a very good person and a talented leader,” Bok said. “She is not the slightest bit antisemitic.

“Worn down by months of relentless external attacks, she was not herself last Tuesday,” he said. “Over prepared and over lawyered given the hostile forum and high stakes, she provided a legalistic answer to a moral question, and that was wrong.” 

Bok said that he believes people will view the situation differently “in the fullness of time,” and that he hopes another university “will in due course be wise enough to give her a second chance.”

Stefanik, others welcome resignation

“One down. Two to go,” said Elise Stefanik, the congresswoman who asked the question about genocide and bullying and harassment policies, on X. “This is only the very beginning of addressing the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has destroyed the most ‘prestigious’ higher education institutions in America.” 

She said Magill’s resignation was the “bare minimum of what is required” and urged Harvard and MIT to take similar action.

Eyal Yakoby, a University of Pennsylvania student who has sued the school alleging insufficient response to antisemitism, said on CNN that Magill’s resignation was one step toward a broader change at the university.

“This has been something that myself and many alumni and fellow students, parents been working on for a while … (but) this is just the first domino in a culture for many leaders including Chairman Bok who have allowed this to happen,” Yakoby said.