Update, Oct. 12 at 3:20 p.m.:
Multiple trustees were allegedly pressured to step down from their board positions after publicly criticizing Penn's response to the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, four alumni with firsthand knowledge told The Daily Pennsylvanian.
In a statement to the DP, University Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok disputed allegations that Penn would "purge" trustees from its board. Bok said that the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees told two trustees who signed onto a public letter criticizing the University that "they could consider voluntarily resigning, thereby freeing from all the constraints involved in serving on a board."
Update, Oct. 11 at 8:24 p.m.:
In a statement provided to The Daily Pennsylvanian, 1979 College graduate and Vice Chair of the University Board of Trustees Julie Platt said that she had “full confidence” in Penn President Liz Magill and University Board of trustees Chair Scott Bok’s leadership.
“I join with the many members of the Penn family in expressing solidarity with all those who have been impacted by the horrific assault on Israel by Hamas and in condemning these hateful acts of terror,” Platt wrote. “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 added that the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees had “unanimously endorsed” the steps Penn has taken to respond to acts of antisemitism.
The statement comes as additional alumni have become more public in their disapproval of Magill and Bok’s response. 1969 College graduate Dick Wolf, the namesake of the Wolf Humanities Center at Penn, endorsed former Penn trustee Marc Rowan’s call for alumni to cease donations until Magill and Bok resign.
“Sadly, their leadership has inadequately represented the ideals and values of our university and they should be held to account,” Wolf wrote in a statement to the DP.
Original story, Oct. 11 at 3:11 p.m.:
The chair of the Wharton School's Board of Advisors called on President Liz Magill and Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok to step down, citing the University's handling of antisemitism on campus.
“I call on all UPenn alumni and supporters who believe we are heading in the wrong direction to ‘Close their Checkbooks’ until” Magill and Bok step down, 1984 Wharton graduate, 1985 Wharton MBA graduate and former Penn trustee Marc Rowan wrote in a letter obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian.
The DP has not currently verified all the claims in Rowan's letter, which include allegations that Magill did not fully condemn the beliefs of some speakers at the Palestine Writes Literature Festival.
Rowan served as a trustee from 2016 to 2023 and currently serves as CEO of Apollo Global Management. Bok is chairman and CEO of independent investment bank Greenhill & Co., Inc.
Last month, the Palestine Writes Literature Festival sparked criticism from campus and national Jewish groups. Multiple current and former Penn trustees, including Rowan, signed a letter calling on Magill to take stronger action in response to the festival, which hosted speakers that some community members said previously made antisemitic remarks.
Magill previously released a statement in response to the criticism on Sept. 12, condemning antisemitism and emphasizing the University's support of free speech. Following vandalism at Penn Hillel and the discovery of a spray-painted swastika Meyerson Hall in the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, Penn released another statement condemning the antisemitic acts.
There is no evidence confirmed by the DP connecting either incident mentioned in the statement to the Palestine Writes festival.
As the debate surrounding the festival grew, Magill wrote in a letter to the Anti-Defamation League that the University would review its policies for external event reservations. She also pointed out that Roger Waters, a speaker at the festival, had a history of conduct viewed by many as antisemitic.
Event organizers and participants acknowledged the criticism that the event received during the festival, saying that antisemitism and anti-Israel criticism cannot be considered interchangeable.
In his letter, Rowan also cited recent attacks on Israel by Hamas as demonstrating that "words and ideas matter."
On Tuesday, Penn said it would defer all University-affiliated travel to Israel and Palestine for the foreseeable future due to the ongoing war in the region. In a statement, administrators wrote that they were "devastated by the horrific assault on Israel" by Hamas, a militant group that governs the Gaza Strip and which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of State.
“It is time for the trustees to begin moving UPenn in a new direction,” Rowan, who also received a Wharton MBA in 1985, wrote in the letter. “Join me and many others who love UPenn by sending UPenn $1 in place of your normal, discretionary contribution so that no one misses the point.”
Rowan previously donated $50 million to Wharton in 2018, the largest single gift to the school at the time.