More than two dozen Republican members of Congress sent a letter to University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill condemning the school’s “shocking lack of a prompt and unequivocal condemnation” of the October 7 attacks in Israel by Hamas.
The letter, dated November 1, comes after the college was accused by wealthy donors and alumni of alleged failure to condemn antisemitism and hate following the attack. The lack of response “raises serious concerns about the institution’s moral compass and its commitment to standing against terrorism and violence,” the lawmakers said.
UPenn’s muddled response “sends a message of indifference, not just to the victims of this attack but to victims of terrorism globally. It undermines the very essence of education – to foster understanding, empathy, and respect among diverse communities,” the letter said.
Signatories on the letter include Reps. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Nicole Malliotakis of New York and Michael McCaul of Texas.
A similar letter from Norman was sent the same day to other universities such as Yale, Columbia and Harvard. “The letters express profound disappointment in administrators for their half-hearted, hypocritical, or absent responses to the outrageous protests by student organizers and certain professors,” Norman said, according to a copy provided by his office.
Controversy began when a multiday event took place in September on campus at UPenn called the Palestine Writes Literature Festival. UPenn has acknowledged that event included speakers with a history of making antisemitic remarks, and UPenn leaders issued a statement ahead of the festival condemning antisemitism broadly, though not the festival specifically.
The letter took aim at that as well. “The fact that UPenn was aware of and allowed known antisemitic speakers to come to campus is not only dangerous but shows a severe lack of judgment, which calls into question the leadership and values of your institution,” it said.
Powerful donors led by private equity billionaire Marc Rowan have argued UPenn leaders did not go far enough to condemn that event or speak out against antisemitism.
“Why is UPenn repeating tragic mistakes of the past? Words of hate and violence must be met with clear, reasoned condemnation, rooted in morality from those in positions of authority,” Rowan, the CEO of Apollo Global Management, wrote in October.
Magill’s leadership has been called into question from powerful alumni angered by all of this. She wrote in an open letter last week stressing the university’s commitment to fighting “this evil on our campus and beyond” and conceded more work must be done.
“This is an incredibly challenging moment in the world, and we are feeling its reverberations on our campus,” Magill wrote. “We can and will do better to combat antisemitism and to reject hate in all its forms.”
In an email to CNN, UPenn declined to comment about the letter.
–CNN’s Matt Egan contributed to this report.
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