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Billionaire and 1965 Wharton graduate Ronald Lauder at the naming ceremony for Lauder College House on Sept. 5, 2019.

Credit: Emily Xu

Update, Oct. 24 at 8:54 p.m.:

1965 Wharton graduate Ronald Lauder confirmed he will halt his donations to Penn during a speech at a Heritage Foundation event Monday afternoon in Washington D.C. — one week after threatening to end his financial support.

"I've spent the last 40 years of my life fighting antisemitism all over the world," Lauder said during his speech. "I never in my wildest imagination thought I would have to fight it at my own university, my alma mater, my family's alma mater."

Lauder said that he and other donors "can no longer be silent" and that newspapers, universities, and cable channels had to understand "there are consequences for their actions." 

The announcement comes after Magill's third statement on the Israel-Hamas war earlier this week, where she said that the University would not tolerate hate speech and reiterated the University's commitment to fighting antisemitism. 

Original story, Oct. 16 at 4:25 p.m.:

1965 Wharton graduate Ronald Lauder told Penn President Liz Magill that he will reconsider his donations to the University unless it does more to combat antisemitism.

In a letter sent to Magill on Monday obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian and first reported by CNN, Lauder wrote that Magill's response to the Palestine Writes Literature Festival "lacked a clear apology" to Jewish students. He told Magill that she was "forcing" him to reexamine his financial support "absent satisfactory measures to address antisemitism at the University." 

“The conference has put a deep stain on Penn’s reputation that will take a long time to repair,” Lauder wrote to Magill.

Lauder, a billionaire donor, also wrote that he was regretful that Magill did not cancel the Palestine Writes Literature festival and that he did not want any instructors involved with the festival to be allowed to teach at the Lauder Institute, which he endowed.

"Alumni are important members of the Penn community," Magill wrote in a statement provided to the DP. "I hear their anger, pain, and frustration and am taking action to make clear that I stand, and Penn stands, emphatically against the terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel and against antisemitism."

Magill wrote that the University supports and encourages "the free exchange of ideas, along with a commitment to the safety and security of our community and the values we share and work to advance." 

She also reiterated her statement on Sunday, where she said that the University "should have communicated faster and more broadly about where we stand" on the Palestine Writes Literature Festival and would seek to leave "no doubt" that Penn was clear in its view of some of the speakers.

The Palestine Writes festival previously sparked criticism from campus and national Jewish groups who said that the event featured speakers who had made antisemitic comments in the past. Magill and other University administrators released a statement in response to the criticism on Sept. 12, condemning antisemitism and emphasizing the University's support of free speech.

This statement was the first time in recent memory that the University responded to criticism of a campus event.

More recently, Magill issued another statement on Oct. 15 emphasizing the University's position on antisemitism. She wrote that the University could have been more forceful in communicating its view on the festival, distancing Penn from the event's speakers who, she wrote, had a "public history of speaking out viciously against the Jewish people."

"The University did not, and emphatically does not, endorse these speakers or their views," Magill wrote. "While we did communicate, we should have moved faster to share our position strongly and more broadly with the Penn community."

Palestine Writes posted a response to Penn's statement on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, writing that Magill's statement was "cowardly, immoral, and dishonest."

Students and other Penn community members have also pushed back against the University's recent statements for not including any mention of the ongoing violence against Palestinians in the region or the toll of the conflict on Palestinian students on campus. On Monday, over 100 people gathered on campus during a seven-hour walk out event to stand in solidarity with Palestine and criticize Penn’s recent statement about the ongoing violence in the region. 

Lauder's letter potentially represents another substantial loss of a major donor to the University, which has come under growing fire from top donors and alumni who have given tens of millions to dollars to Penn. These donors include Wharton Board of Advisors Chair and 1984 Wharton graduate, 1985 Wharton MBA graduate Marc Rowan, who has called for Magill and Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok's resignation; and the Huntsman family, who has supported Penn over the course of three generations.

Lauder and a University spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Lauder serves as chairman of Clinique Laboratories within Estée Lauder Companies. Lauder and his family have given extensively to Penn in the past, including donations to create and renovate the Lauder Institute and large contributions to the construction of Lauder College House.

Since 2007, he has served as the president of the World Jewish Congress, a global alliance of Jewish community groups and associations.

Multiple other notable alumni have decided to halt their donations in recent days, according to letters and correspondence with Magill obtained by the DP. These donors include 1990 College and Engineering graduate David Magerman, 1983 Wharton graduate Jonathon Jacobson, and 1988 Wharton and Engineering graduate Cliff Asness.

When asked if he will halt his donations Penn, 1970 College graduate Alan Hassenfeld, one of the namesakes of Fisher-Hassenfeld College House, wrote to the DP that he will "continue my work of doing my utmost to alleviate the disastrous turmoil we are faced with."

"I have spent the past 40 years of my life fighting antisemitism all over the world and I never, in my wildest imagination, thought I would have to fight it at my university, my alma mater and my family's alma mater," Lauder wrote in his letter to Magill.