Penn president, board chair resign after controversial congressional hearing on antisemitism

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Liz Magill and Scott Bok, two top leaders at the University of Pennsylvania, resigned Saturday after days of criticism and pressure from donors, alumni and Jewish community members following Magill’s comments in a Congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.

“I write to share that President Liz Magill has voluntarily tendered her resignation as President of the University of Pennsylvania,” Bok, Chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees, wrote in a letter to the Penn community.

After her exit, Bok also announced he would be stepping down effective immediately and that he declined to stay and help with the presidential transition.

Bok said in a statement that Magill made a “very unfortunate misstep” in a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on Tuesday.

“The world should know that Liz Magill is a very good person and a talented leader who was beloved by her team. She is not the slightest bit antisemitic,” Bok said in a statement. “Working with her was one of the great pleasures of my life. Worn down by months of relentless external attacks, she was not herself last Tuesday. 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. It made for a dreadful 30-second sound bite in what was more than five hours of testimony.”

Bok said Magill will remain a tenured faculty member at Penn’s Carey Law School.

READ MORE: Penn students react to President Liz Magill’s comments on campus antisemitism

Penn’s board held an emergency meeting on Thursday, which a person familiar with the situation described as an informal virtual gathering.

At that meeting, trustees told Magill that they were not asking her to resign but that “she should think ‘long and hard’ about whether she can function in her role effectively,” according to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn’s student-run newspaper.

Magill was one of three college presidents who testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday. They spoke about how they have handled antisemitic incidents on their campuses since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel, with many Republican lawmakers insisting they aren’t doing enough to root out and denounce anti-Jewish sentiments.

In the hearing, Magill got in an exchange with New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik about whether calling for the genocide of Jewish people violates the Ivy League university’s code of conduct.

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

“So the answer is yes?” Stefanik replied.

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

The comments led to a protest outside of Magill’s office, where some demanded she step down. Magill later tried to clarify the testimony in a video statement.

“I was not focused on, but I should have been 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,” Magill said in the video.

Stefanik reacted to Magill’s resignation in a post on X Saturday.

“This is only the very beginning of addressing the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has destroyed the most ‘prestigious’ higher education institutions in America,” Stefanik wrote.

Earlier this week, Stefanik said the Education and Workforce Committee is investigating Penn, MIT, Harvard and other schools after what she called “pathetic and morally bankrupt” testimony in Tuesday’s hearing.

Wharton alums, donors called for Magill to resign from Penn

Donor Ross Stevens said if Magill did not resign, he would rescind $100 million worth of shares of his Stone Ridge Asset Management firm that Penn held.

Jon Huntsman, a Penn alum, former U.S. Ambassador to China and the namesake of Penn’s Huntsman Hall, also called for Penn’s board to remove Magill in a statement to CNN.

The Wharton Board of Advisors, which includes several prominent business leaders like billionaire sports team owner Josh Harris, Blackstone executive David Blitzer and Scott Mills, the CEO of BET, had also called for her resignation.

Who is Liz Magill? Ousted Penn President’s career leading up to time with Ivy League school

According to her bio on the university website, Magill is a legal scholar published in several top law publications.

She previously served as executive vice president and provost at the University of Virginia. Before that, she was a professor and Dean at Stanford Law School.

Magill is a native of Fargo, North Dakota. She got a bachelor’s degree in history at Yale in 1988 before working as a legislative assistant for North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad for four years. She then left Capitol Hill for the University of Virginia’s law school. After graduating law school, Magill worked as a clerk for a federal appellate judge and then for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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