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President Liz Magill released a statement Friday afternoon regarding the vandalism at Penn Hillel on Sept. 21.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Penn administrators condemned the vandalism at Penn Hillel and a swastika discovered at Meyerson Hall, pledging additional steps to protect Jewish students.

The statement was emailed to the Penn community Friday and was signed by Penn President Liz Magill, Provost John Jackson Jr., Senior Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, and other top administrators. In the statement, Penn wrote that the incidents were "deeply unsettling" and that the Division of Public Safety was investigating both incidents, committing to increased security at Hillel and the Lubavitch House.

"We unequivocally condemn such hateful acts," the administrators wrote. "They are an assault on our values and mission as an institution and have no place at Penn. Sadly, incidents of hatred, including antisemitic rhetoric and acts that denigrate Jewish people, have become all too common."

The University statement said that Penn is in "active conversations" with community-based organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League. The DP previously reported on Magill's correspondence with ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, where she outlined several steps the University is taking to respond to criticism of the Palestine Writes Literature Festival. The letter has sparked mixed responses from students on campus.

In the statement, Penn acknowledged that the antisemitic incidents coincided with upcoming visits to campus by "controversial speakers."

"We also acknowledge the timing of these incidents is particularly difficult given the controversial speakers who will be participating in the event on our campus over the coming days," the University wrote. "It is our collective responsibility as a community to stand clearly and strongly against antisemitism."

The Palestine Writes Literature Festival, which begins Friday, was not named in the statement, but Penn community members — including multiple members of the University Board of Trustees — have pushed back against some of the festival's speakers for allegedly making antisemitic comments in the past. There is no evidence confirmed by the DP connecting either incident mentioned in the statement to the Palestine Writes festival.

In response to controversy surrounding the festival, Penn previously released a statement signed by Magill, Jackson, and School of Arts and Sciences Dean Steven Fluharty on Sept. 12, saying that "we unequivocally — and emphatically — condemn antisemitism as antithetical to our institutional values."

Friday's statement comes the day after an unknown individual vandalized the Hillel building Thursday ahead of a morning prayer service, knocking over "several pieces of furniture" and "shouting antisemitic obscenities about Jewish people," according to a Hillel statement.

"When I walked into Hillel, I noticed that the lobby was completely trashed — one of the podiums was smashed, one of the tables was smashed. There was stuff everywhere," College junior Marc Fishkind said, who came to Hillel shortly after the incident.

In response to the incident, Hillel wrote that it had asked Penn to provide full-time security in front of the Hillel building "beginning immediately."  Penn's statement came hours before Penn Hillel will hold a campus-wide show of support for Jewish students.

"Penn Public Safety also initiated and is following all protocols for potential bias incidents on campus, and is continuing to provide additional support to the Hillel community following this incident," DPS wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

In addition, a spray-painted swastika was discovered in a spray room on the fourth floor of Meyerson Hall in the Stuart Weitzman School of Design on the evening of Sept. 13, two days before the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Weitzman Dean Frederick Steiner wrote in an email to the Weitzman school community on Sept. 14 that DPS was investigating the incident and encouraged students with information to contact school administrators. The swastika has since been painted over. 

"Hateful actions that promote violence and divisiveness are antithetical to our values and to our commitment to ensure that the Weitzman School is a 'safe space' for everyone," Steiner wrote. "I am appalled by this behavior, and I offer my profound condolences to anyone hurt by this action. I also want to acknowledge your frustration and anger, and to express my heartfelt support — as well as my condemnation of antisemitism of any kind."

Chabad Rabbi Levi Haskelevich told the DP that he invited Magill to come visit the Chabad House. He said that he learned of the swastika at Meyerson Hall from a student who witnessed the vandalism and reported it to school administration. 

"It's good to know that the administration is responding and taking these things seriously," Haskelevich said. "Hopefully, by calling it out sooner, these things grow less likely to show their face."

Signatories of the letter also included Senior Vice President for Institutional Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Joann Mitchell, University Chaplain and Vice President for Social Equity and Community Reverend Chaz Howard, and Vice Provost for University Life Karu Kozuma.

"We are unwavering in our commitment to ensuring our Jewish community feels safe and supported on our campus," administrators wrote.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Penn President Liz Magill did not visit the Lubavitch House on Sept. 22.