This story is developing and will continue to be updated.
1987 College graduate Jon Huntsman Jr. told Penn President Liz Magill that his family will stop donating to Penn, stripping the University of a longtime donor amid backlash from influential trustees and alumni.
In an email to Magill obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian, Huntsman — a former University trustee, governor of Utah, and United States ambassador — said that the Huntsman Foundation will "close its checkbook" on future donations to Penn. Huntsman, whose family has donated tens of millions to Penn over the course of three generations, wrote that the University had become "almost unrecognizable" due to administrators' response to antisemitism.
"Moral relativism has fueled the university’s race to the bottom and sadly now has reached a point where remaining impartial is no longer an option," he wrote to Magill after a meeting of the Board of Trustees on Friday night.
Huntsman expressed disappointment in Penn's alleged "silence" to the attack by Hamas on Israel.
"The University’s silence in the face of reprehensible and historic Hamas evil against the people of Israel (when the only response should be outright condemnation) is a new low," Huntsman wrote. "Silence is antisemitism, and antisemitism is hate, the very thing higher ed was built to obviate."
Magill and Provost John L. Jackson previously issued a statement on the Hamas attacks on Tuesday, while University Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok condemned the "atrocious terrorist attacks" on Saturday.
More recently, Magill explicitly condemned Hamas and emphasized the University's position on antisemitism in her statement on Sunday. In her message, Magill referred to the violence from Hamas as a "terrorist assault," a change from her initial statement.
Huntsman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether his position has changed since Magill's latest message.
In a statement to the DP, Bok wrote that former and current trustees met for two unofficial meetings with Magill in recent days to discuss updates and seek guidance.
"President Magill provided a briefing on the University's response, sharing her recent community messages, describing support for students on campus, and outlining plans to enhance education and training to combat antisemitism on campus. She committed to communicating progress toward these plans broadly to the Penn community," Bok wrote.
Bok added that there was a "unanimous sense" that "President Magill and her existing University leadership team are the right group to take the University forward."
The Huntsman family's end to its University giving — announced before Magill's statement on Sunday — comes after substantial pushback from trustees and generous donors in recent days, and it could represent a significant blow to Penn's funding.
Following a three-hour emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees on Friday, trustee Vahan Gureghian announced his resignation in protest of University leadership, citing his decision as resulting from Penn's response to the Palestine Writes Literature Festival.
Magill's initial statement about the festival on Sept. 12 was the first time in recent memory that the University responded to criticism of a campus event.
Chair of the Wharton School's Board of Advisors Marc Rowan called on Magill and Bok to step down last week, citing the University's handling of antisemitism on campus. The DP also reported that multiple trustees were allegedly pressured to step down from their board positions after publicly criticizing Penn's response to the Palestine Writes festival.
1979 College graduate and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Julie Platt previously told the DP in a statement that she had “full confidence” in Magill and Bok’s leadership.
"The University has publicly committed to unprecedented steps to further combat antisemitism on its campus, reaffirmed deep support for our Jewish community, and condemned the devastating and barbaric attacks on Israel by Hamas," Platt wrote.
Following vandalism at Penn Hillel and Meyerson Hall, Penn released another statement condemning the antisemitic acts. In a letter to the Anti-Defamation League, Magill outlined steps Penn would take to combat antisemitism on campus.
Following the acts of vandalism, a gift from the Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation recently established two funds: one for studying Jewish history and culture in Israel and another for studying antisemitism.
Huntsman graduated from Penn in 1987 with a B.A. in political science with a concentration in international politics. He served on the University's Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2001 before stepping down after being named deputy U.S. trade representative. Huntsman was then re-elected to join the board from 2012, and served until 2016.
Huntsman previously served as ambassador to Singapore under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and ambassador to China under Barack Obama. In 2012, he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for president. Huntsman served as ambassador to Russia under former president and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump.
His father — 1959 Wharton graduate Jon Huntsman Sr.— was the namesake of Huntsman Hall at 37th and Walnut Streets. Huntsman Sr. funded the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business with a $10 million gift. He donated $40 million in 1998, which at the time was the largest-ever gift given to a business school. As of 2014, Huntsman Sr. had donated at least $50 million to Wharton. Huntsman Sr. died in 2018.
In 2010, Huntsman Jr. gave Penn's commencement speech. More recently, in 2016, Huntsman spoke at the dedication of the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Jewish Life, which is part of Lubavitch House at Penn.
Some donors have been more resistant to halting their donations. 1966 Graduate School of Education graduate Jane Toll wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that she and her husband, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law school graduate Robert Toll, agreed with Magill's Sunday statement. In 2020, the Tolls donated $50 million to expand the Toll Public Interest Scholars and Fellows Program.
1963 Wharton graduate Stuart Weitzman, the namesake of the Weitzman School of Design, wrote to the DP that he was "keeping private all of my actions during these circumstances."