Penn will continue its collaboration with federal officials as the Biden administration announced a plan to address an increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents on college campuses on Monday.
The plan outlines actions to be taken by federal departments and emphasizes aspects of existing legislation. The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security will also join forces with campus law enforcement to monitor and address hate-related threats and offer federal support to educational institutions.
In response to a request for comment, a University spokesperson wrote that "[Division of Public Safety] members sit on the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and are in regular contact with Federal and other officials on these topics. They will continue to work with our Law Enforcement partners to ensure the safety of the community which they serve."
The collaborative efforts between campus law enforcement and federal departments will involve assessing specific and verifiable threats identified online. A White House representative told NBC News that numerous cybersecurity and protective security experts from the Department of Homeland Security have been assigned to work closely with schools.
Following the Hamas attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, the White House expressed deep concern over “an extremely disturbing pattern of antisemitic messages” on college campuses.
Last month, an unknown individual vandalized the Penn Hillel building ahead of a morning prayer service, knocking over "several pieces of furniture" and "shouting antisemitic obscenities about Jewish people," according to a Hillel statement. 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, and DPS is currently investigating antisemitic vandalism on a vacant property next to the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity chapter house as a "potential hate crime."
Penn has committed extra funding to meet Penn Hillel’s extra security needs through the end of the 2024-25 school year, and President Liz Magill has condemned antisemitism in several statements.
While Biden's plan mentions strategies to address Islamophobia, CNN recently reported that multiple
Muslim-American leaders told Biden in private meetings that his administration needs to demonstrate more care and attention toward Palestinian lives in — pushing back on Biden's comments that have publicly casted doubt on civilian death figures in Gaza that have been provided by the health ministry in the region.
Over a hundred colleges and universities across the country planned pro-Palestinian walkouts in the past week. Rallies took place on Penn’s campus on Oct. 16, Oct. 18, and Oct. 25. Multiple Penn faculty members and students received violent threats due to their involvement in these demonstrations.
In remarks yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell mentioned Penn in his response to how university donors and students are reacting to the Israel-Hamas war.
"The University of Pennsylvania is facing a donor revolt over campus protests and an anti-Semitic literary festival that predated October 7th," McConnell said. "But that didn’t stop the local chapter of, essentially, its professors’ union from issuing a six-page letter denouncing the University administration’s pro-Israel views."
McConnell was referencing how multiple high profile trustees have pulled their donations following the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, which was hosted on Penn's campus last month. He was also referencing a recent statement from Penn's chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which criticized the alleged "erasure" of Palestinians and an absence of faculty consultation about some parts of the University's response to the festival.
According to the White House, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has expedited the revision of its complaint form to explicitly state that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits specific forms of antisemitism and Islamophobia.
The new plan will accelerate efforts to “educate communities about their rights to be free from such discrimination and how to file complaints” in the days ahead, according to an administration official's statement to NBC News.