Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

The University of Pennsylvania is grappling with a severe crisis as a major donor, Ross Stevens, withdraws a $100 million grant following a controversial congressional appearance by the school’s president, Elizabeth Magill. President Magill, along with Harvard President Claudine Gay and MIT‘s Sally Kornbluth, faced backlash after evading questions about how the university would address students calling for the genocide of Jews, reported BBC.
In an email obtained by the BBC, donor Ross Stevens expressed his dismay, stating, “I have clear grounds to rescind Penn’s $100 million of Stone Ridge shares due to the conduct of President Magill.” Stevens, the founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, criticized the university’s “permissive approach” to calls for violence against Jewish people, citing potential violations of harassment and discrimination policies.
The $100 million grant, in the form of limited partnership units in Stone Ridge, was initially gifted by Stevens in 2017 to help Wharton create a finance innovation center. The withdrawal of this substantial donation raises concerns about the university’s financial stability and its ability to carry out planned initiatives.
The controversial congressional hearing, where university leaders avoided straightforward answers regarding calls for the genocide of Jews on campus, has sparked widespread outrage. The House Committee on Education & the Workforce has announced a formal investigation into Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT over “rampant antisemitism.” Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx expressed deep concerns about the leadership of these institutions and their failure to ensure a safe learning environment for Jewish students.
President Magill, in particular, has faced mounting criticism, with an online petition gathering 2,500 signatures demanding her resignation for her failure to unequivocally condemn calls for genocide. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, a nonvoting member of Penn’s Board of Trustees, emphasized the board’s responsibility to make a “serious decision” regarding Magill’s statements and their alignment with the school’s values.
In response to the controversy, Magill released a video apology on the university’s website, acknowledging her focus on free speech but admitting a failure to address the gravity of calls for genocide. However, the letter from donor Ross Stevens suggests that Magill’s apology might not be sufficient, as he indicates that Stone Ridge would reconsider its decision with a new university president in place.
The crisis deepens as another major donor, billionaire CEO Marc Rowan of Apollo Global Management, renews his demand to replace Magill, questioning the impact of the controversy on the university’s reputation. Two Penn students have also filed a federal lawsuit against the university, accusing it of violating the Civil Rights Act and holding specific employees, including Magill, responsible for antisemitic abuse on campus.
The University of Pennsylvania now faces a pivotal moment, grappling with financial repercussions, a potential leadership shakeup, and increased scrutiny over its commitment to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all students.
(with inputs from Reuters)

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