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Jewish Organizations React to Resignation of UPenn President, Recommend Next Steps

The University of Pennsylvania is looking to move forward after the resignation of embattled former president Liz Magill.

She had been criticized for not doing enough to stop antisemitism on campus. Her resignation comes as residents are learning more about how much antisemitism has increased locally.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there have been more than 2,000 antisemitic incidents reported locally between October 7 and December 7, 2023.

That number is four times higher than the same time period last year. Some say college campuses have become ‘breeding grounds’ for that type of hate. It’s why some pushed so hard for Penn’s president to resign.

“Shockingly, Penn was a shining star when we looked at it last year,” said Liora Rez, the executive director of Stop Antisemitism, a grassroots watchdog group that grades colleges on their response to antisemitism.

“Penn received an A- in our report last year,” said Rez. “Having re-looked at Penn this year, the grade we would assign would definitely be an F.”

It’s all because of the university’s response to antisemitism, with Magill at the center of the storm.

“We’ve been calling for her resignation for months,” said Rez.

On Saturday, Magill resigned along with Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok.

Both previously refused to leave their positions, even as antisemitism grew on campus while groups like the Anti-Defamation League watched.

“We’ve seen swastikas and other pieces (on campus). We’ve seen individuals marching and chanting,” said Andrew Goretsky, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Philadelphia Office.

The final straw for many was Magill’s testimony alongside the leaders of Harvard and MIT last week on Capitol Hill.

“When somebody asks you the question, ‘Is the call for the genocide of Jewish people or any people a violation of conduct?’ That should be a pretty clear answer,” said Goretsky.

Penn hasn’t announced its plans in the search for a new president. That person would be leading a school with a significant Jewish population.

According to Hillel International, Penn has about 1,600 undergraduate Jewish students, which is about 16% of the undergrad population.

“Protect your Jewish students. Include Jews in all DEI policies and initiatives,” said Rez.

“One of the pieces that has contributed to (a rise in antisemitism on college campuses), is the fact Jewish culture and antisemitism hasn’t been included in diversity, equity, and inclusion work,” said Goretsky.

Experts say also looking at the foundation of the institution is necessary as the University of Pennsylvania searches for a new president.

“The resignation of President Magill is one step at this point,” said Goretsky. “Other things need to happen on campus in order to move things forward.”