December 10th, 2023
By Summer Concepcion
House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. — who recently went viral for engaging in a contentious exchange with university presidents at a congressional hearing on antisemitism — on Saturday praised the resignation of University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill.
“One down. Two to go,” Stefanik wrote 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.”
“This forced resignation of the president of @Penn is the bare minimum of what is required,” she added. “These universities can anticipate a robust and comprehensive Congressional investigation of all facets of their institutions negligent perpetration of antisemitism including administrative, faculty, funding, and overall leadership and governance.”
Magill stepped down Saturday after she faced widespread backlash for some of her remarks at the five-hour House hearing Tuesday — during which she and her counterparts at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were grilled over how their institutions responded to the rise in anti-Jewish hate since Hamas launched its attack in Israel on Oct. 7.
In a contention exchange at the House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on antisemitism on college campuses, Stefanik asked Magill, Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of MIT whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate the codes of conduct at their schools.
The university presidents repeatedly sidestepped the question.
Magill said the decision would be “context-dependent,” adding that “if the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment”; Gay said that when “speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies”; and Kornbluth said that she had not heard of students on her campus calling for the genocide of Jews and that such rhetoric would be “investigated as harassment if pervasive and severe.”
Magill said in a two-minute video posted Wednesday night on X: “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.”
“It’s evil, plain and simple,” she added.
After the hearing, the GOP-led committee launched an investigation into universities’ efforts to combat growing violence and threats against Jews on college campuses.
House Education Committee Chair Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., also celebrated Magill’s resignation in a statement. “Three chances. President Magill had three chances to set the record straight when asked if calling for the genocide of Jews violated UPenn’s code of conduct during our hearing on antisemitism,” she said.
“Instead of giving a resounding yes to the question, she chose to equivocate,” Foxx added. “What’s more shocking is that it took her more than 24 hours to clarify her comments, and even that clarification failed to include an apology to the Jewish students who do not feel safe on campus. I welcome her departure from UPenn.”
Gay issued an apology for her remarks in her congressional testimony. “I am sorry,” Gay said in an interview Thursday with The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper. “Words matter.”
“When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret,” she added.
Meanwhile, Mark Gorenberg, the chair of the MIT Corporation, said he and the executive committee of the MIT Corporation “entirely support” Kornbluth.
“The MIT Corporation chose Sally to be our president for her excellent academic leadership, her judgment, her integrity, her moral compass, and her ability to unite our community around MIT’s core values,” he said in a statement.
“She has done excellent work in leading our community, including in addressing antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, all of which we reject utterly at MIT. She has our full and unreserved support.”