The University of Pennsylvania is scrambling after a megadonor to the prestigious university said he’d be withdrawing his $100 million donation.
Ross Stevens, who serves as Stone Ridge Asset Management’s founder and CEO, said he’d be withdrawing his massive donation in protest of how the university has handled antisemitism, as well as the abhorrent testimony that its president gave to Congress on the topic this week.
In 2017, the gift Stevens gave included partnership units in his firm, which today are valued at about $100 million. The gift was meant to help UPenn establish a financial innovation center.
But, attorneys who represent Stevens sent the school a letter this week saying it was in violation of the agreement because it didn’t adhere to rules around anti-harassment and anti-discrimination.
The letter states that Stone Ridge and Stevens “are appalled by the University’s stance on antisemitism on campus. … [Penn’s] permissive approach to hate speech calling for violence against Jews and laissez faire attitude toward harassment and discrimination against Jewish students would violate any policies of rules that prohibit harassment and discrimination based on religion, including those of Stone Ridge.”
This week, Penn President Liz Magill gave a controversial testimony to the House Education and Workforce Committee.
In one part of the testimony, she said the question of whether calls for genocide of Jewish people constitute prohibited speech on Penn’s campus would be “context-dependent.” She added that it only would violate the school’s rules against harassment and bullying if it was “directed, pervasive and severe.”
Not surprisingly, there has been considerable backlash to Magill’s testimony in the days since she gave it. While she attempted to clarify her comments on social media, that didn’t appease many of her critics.
Stevens’ letter said that Magill basically admitted that antisemitic speech would violate the school’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment rules. As the letter reads:
“President Magill’s December 6, 2023 post on X admitted as much, when she belatedly acknowledged – only after her Congressional testimony went viral and demands for her termination amplified – that calls for genocide of the Jewish people constitute harassment and discrimination.”
The video that Magill posted to social media Wednesday was in direct response to the backlash from her testimony. In it, she said that her testimony was focused on constitutional free speech protections and Penn’s policies.
She wanted to be clear, though, that “a call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening, deeply so.”
As Magill said in the video:
“In my view, it would be harassment or intimidation.”
She added that the school’s policies needed to be “clarified and evaluated,” and that as president of the university, she is “committed to a safe, secure and supportive environment so all members of our community can thrive. We can, and we will, get this right.”
In the meantime, many people have called for Magill to resign from her post, or to be removed.
That includes a group of Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania and the board of the school’s prestigious Wharton business school.