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.
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 the wake of the hearing, Magill in particular faced mounting criticism from Penn’s stakeholders. The board of the school’s Wharton School called for new leadership for the school and a donor threatened to pull a $100 million donation unless Magill stepped down.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who is a non-voting member of the board of the private university, said Magill “failed” to create a safe atmosphere for students and urged the board to review her leadership.
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.
“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.
“I hope this signals a new start for @Penn & a wake-up call for all college presidents,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on X. “Campus administrators must protect their Jewish students with the same passion they bring to protecting all students. They can’t hide behind language coached by their attorneys & look the other way when it comes to antisemitism.”
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.