Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) called for Penn President Liz Magill to be fired for antisemitism on campus.
In a discussion on Nov. 15 at Hudson Institute, a research organization based in Washington, D.C., Christie spoke about antisemitism on college campuses and said Magill, in addition to the presidents of Harvard and Cornell universities, should be fired.
“The president of Penn should be fired today without hesitation,” Christie said, adding that, "this is not about freedom of speech. This is about rank and competence.”
Christie expressed his wariness of the impact of donor backlash against universities for antisemitism. At Penn, this began with Apollo Global Management, Inc. CEO and Wharton Board of Advisors Chair Marc Rowan recommending fellow donors to “close their checkbooks” until Magill steps down.
““These boards of trustees and these presidents, of especially our most elite universities, have been hiring faculty members—for decades—that are antisemitic. And they’ve granted them tenure” Christie said. “And under the license of academic freedom, they permitted them to teach our children things that are fundamentally incorrect, and morally infirm.”
Magill announced the University's antisemitism action plan on Nov. 1, sharing a series of action steps to improve safety and security, engagement, and education on campus based on the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. The plan garnered support and skepticism from members of the Penn community and its donors, with some saying that the plan does not provide enough support to either Jewish or Palestinian communities on campus.
More recently, Penn announced the 20 community members to join the University's antisemitism task force.
Recent antisemitic incidents, coupled with Penn's response to the Palestine Writes Literature Festival and the war between Israel and Hamas, have continued to fuel uproar from prominent University donors — many of whom have pledged to halt their funding entirely. These donors include Jon Huntsman Jr., Ronald Lauder, and Stephen Levin, as well as dozens of class presidents and building and scholarship namesakes.
“I’m glad to see some of the donors are now taking a stand and saying that unless you change your policies, we’re not giving you any more money,” Christie said. “But guess what? They have tens of billions already.”
Multiple higher education experts told The Daily Pennsylvanian that Penn's recent donor crisis will have uncertain financial and academic consequences on the long-term functioning of the University.
At a Nov. 15 Ways and Means Committee hearing about antisemitism and college campuses, Senior Vice President of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Jonathan Schanzer criticized recent antisemitism on Penn's campus, describing Penn as “probably the worst campus.”
Schanzer mentioned rhetoric at pro-Palestinian demonstrations and recent incidents of antisemitism — including the vandalism at Penn Hillel, swastika at Meyerson Hall, and vandalism outside the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house — as examples of antisemitism.
Schanzer also referenced the Faculty Senate Tri-Chairs’ statement to all standing faculty on Oct. 19, which condemned “individuals outside of the University who are surveilling both faculty and students in an effort to intimidate them and inhibit their academic freedom.”
Schanzer expressed disappointment in the statement, saying that “the end message was that the University should not cave to Jewish donors who are demanding change.”