University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill on Wednesday sought to clarify her conduct during Tuesday’s congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.
Magill is one of several college presidents who danced around a question from Rep. Elise Stefanik on whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” is against the universities’ respective codes of conduct.
Magill replied that “it is a context-dependent decision,” leading Stefanik to reply, “Calling for the genocide of Jews is dependent on the context? That is not bullying or harassment? This is the easiest question to answer ‘yes,’ Ms. Magill.”
In a video posted Wednesday night to X and Instagram, Magill claimed that when she was asked the question, “I was focused on our University’s long standing policies aligned with the US Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable. 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.”
“I want to be clear. A call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening – deeply so. It is intentionally meant to terrify a people who have been subjected to pogroms and hatred for centuries and were the victims of mass genocide in the Holocaust. In my view, it would be harassment or intimidation,” she added.
“For decades under multiple Penn presidents and consistent with most universities, Penn’s policies have been guided by the Constitution and the law. In today’s world, where we are seeing signs of hate proliferating across our campus, in our world in a way not seen in years, these policies need to be clarified and evaluated. Penn must initiate a serious and careful look at our policies, and Provost Jackson and I will immediately convene a process to do so,” said Magill.
“As President, I’m committed to a safe, secure and supportive environment so all members of our community can thrive. We can, and we will, get this right,” she concluded.
Earlier on Wednesday, Harvard University President Claudine Gay also sought to explain her conduct in Tuesday’s hearing.
"There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community or any religious or ethnic group are vile; they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account," she said in a statement.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates responded to the goings on at Tuesday’s hearing and said, "It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country.”
“Any statements that advocate for the systematic murder of Jews are dangerous and revolting – and we should all stand firmly against them, on the side of human dignity and the most basic values that unite us as Americans," he added.