December 7th, 2023

By Jonah Miller


The United States House Committee on Education and the Workforce announced an investigation into Penn with the “full force of subpoena power” following a Tuesday hearing on antisemitism on college campuses that received national attention.

In a statement provided to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) wrote that the committee will use its “full Congressional authority” to hold Penn, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology accountable for “their failure on the global stage.”

“After this week’s pathetic and morally bankrupt testimony by university presidents when answering my questions, the Education and Workforce Committee is launching an official congressional investigation,” Stefanik wrote.

The investigation comes amid widespread criticism over Penn President Liz Magill’s congressional testimony, where she said it was “context dependent” when asked whether individuals calling for the genocide of Jewish students violates Penn’s code of conduct. Harvard and MIT’s presidents were also at the hearing.

“Penn is aware of the investigation and will fully cooperate,” University spokesperson said.

In a press release, Committee Chairwoman and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) wrote that the three presidents’ responses during Tuesday’s testimony “was absolutely unacceptable.”

“Committee members have deep concerns with their leadership and their failure to take steps to provide Jewish students the safe learning environment they are due under law,” Foxx wrote, adding that the investigation will include document requests and potential subpoenas “if a full response is not immediately forthcoming.”

“The disgusting targeting and harassment of Jewish students is not limited to these institutions, and other universities should expect investigations as well, as their litany of similar failures has not gone unnoticed,” Foxx wrote in the statement.

The University Board of Trustees held an emergency gathering on Thursday morning amid the criticism over Magill’s remarks. The DP could not confirm if the meeting was related to Magill’s future as president.

At the hearing, Stefanik asked whether individuals who call for the genocide of Jewish people violate Penn’s policies or code of conduct. Stefanik described calls for “Intifada revolution” among some protesters on campus as calls for genocide of Jewish people.

“If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment,” Magill told Stefanik at the committee hearing, later adding, “It is a context dependent decision.”

The University’s “Free Speech FAQs” detail Penn’s guidelines governing hate speech. These rules state that speech can only be disciplined by the University if “the inflammatory speech intentionally and effectively provokes a crowd to immediately carry out violent and unlawful action.”

“Universities can invest their efforts and resources in educating their members and in creating spaces and contexts for productive dialogue, but they cannot legitimately punish members — students, staff, and faculty — who choose not to participate in those, or who profess bigoted and other hateful views,” Penn’s policy reads. “This is especially true in open and public spaces, like Locust Walk.”