Liz Magill resigns: ‘One down, two to go’ – What's next for Harvard president? - Hindustan Times
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Liz Magill resigns: ‘One down, two to go’ – What's next for Harvard president? Here’s all you need to know

Dec 10, 2023 09:54 PM IST

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigns amid scrutiny over testimony on antisemitism.

The University of Pennsylvania President, Liz Magill, made headlines with her voluntary resignation amid intense scrutiny over her recent testimony on antisemitism. Scott Bok, chair of Penn’s board of trustees, announced her departure, specifying that Magill will remain in her role until an interim leader is appointed.

(FILES) Liz Magill, President of University of Pennsylvania, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 5, 2023 in Washington, DC. he president of an Ivy League university stepped down December 9 in the wake of a firestorm of criticism after a congressional hearing on the rise in anti-Semitism on US campuses. University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill "voluntarily tendered her resignation," the chair of the university's board of trustees Scott Bok announced. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)(AFP)
(FILES) Liz Magill, President of University of Pennsylvania, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 5, 2023 in Washington, DC. he president of an Ivy League university stepped down December 9 in the wake of a firestorm of criticism after a congressional hearing on the rise in anti-Semitism on US campuses. University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill "voluntarily tendered her resignation," the chair of the university's board of trustees Scott Bok announced. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)(AFP)

Magill's statement and Penn's mission

In a statement shared by Bok, Magill expressed gratitude for her time as president, stating, "It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution," highlighting her collaboration with various stakeholders to advance Penn’s vital missions.

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Testimony before Congress: A closer look

Magill, along with Harvard President Claudine Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth, testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on antisemitism issues. The examination revolved around their responses to incidents on college campuses during the Israel-Hamas war.

Antisemitism surge and how universities responded

Colleges reported a surge in antisemitic incidents amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, leading to a contentious atmosphere. The focus of the inquiry, particularly on Magill, Gay, and Kornbluth, was their handling of calls for the genocide of Jews and whether it violated their institutions’ code of conduct against bullying and harassment.

Despite persistent questioning from Rep. Elise Stefanik, the university leaders provided carefully worded responses. Magill, pressed on the issue, acknowledged, "If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment. Yes."

Magill faced criticism not only for her testimony but also for allowing a Palestinian literary festival on Penn's campus, leading to accusations of antisemitism against some speakers.

Lawmakers' reaction: Calls for resignation

Stefanik deemed their answers "unacceptable and antisemitic," urging the university presidents to resign. After Magill's resignation, Stefanik shared on X, "One down. Two to go." House Committee Chair Virginia Foxx announced a formal investigation, and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro criticized Magill's testimony.

Magill's response to backlash

Magill responded to the backlash through a video message on X, acknowledging her oversight and emphasizing the evil nature of calls for genocide. She called for the clarification and evaluation of the school's policies.

The fate of Harvard President Claudine Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth remains uncertain. Lawmakers have called for their resignations as well, and pressure is mounting on college campuses. Gay clarified Harvard's stance against calls for violence, emphasizing accountability for those threatening Jewish students. Kornbluth, while not directly addressing her testimony, urged standing against hate.

Social media dynamics: Celebrations and criticisms

Magill's resignation prompted mixed reactions on social media. While some celebrated her departure, others decried what they perceived as the alleged censorship of pro-Palestinian voices on college campuses.

Also Read | US Rep Elise Stefanik and Jared Moskowitz call for dismissal of Harvard, MIT, UPenn presidents in antisemitism Row

Scott Bok, citing Magill's resignation, noted external attacks and portrayed Magill as a victim of relentless pressure. He acknowledged her misstep in providing a legalistic answer to a moral question during the congressional hearing.

The fallout from Magill's resignation goes beyond an individual university, reflecting broader debates on free speech, antisemitism, and pro-Palestinian expression on college campuses. It prompts a reconsideration of how universities navigate these complex issues while upholding principles of free speech and ensuring a safe environment for all students.

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