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Liz Magill announced her resignation from the Penn Presidency on Dec. 9.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Penn President Liz Magill has resigned, the University announced in an email to the Penn community late Saturday afternoon.

“It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution," Magill wrote in a statement. "It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s vital missions.”

Just minutes after Magill's resignation, Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok announced that he, too, was stepping down from his position as the chair of the University Board of Trustees.

"While I was asked to remain in that role for the remainder of my term in order to help with the presidential transition, I concluded that, for me, now was the right time to depart," Bok said in a statement provided to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Magill will remain a tenured faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, according to the email. The trustees met shortly after Magill resigned around 4:30 p.m., and Bok left the meeting after announcing he would step down.

Bok wrote in the announcement of Magill's resignation that the University would share plans for Penn's interim leadership "in the coming days," and Magill will remain president until an interim president is appointed.

Magill's resignation was voluntary, and Bok thanked her for her service.

The announcement comes amid unprecedented national scrutiny over Magill's remarks at a congressional hearing of the United States House Committee on Education and the Workforce and almost two months after several alumni and donors called for her resignation following the Palestine Writes Literature Festival and Hamas' attack on Israel. 

"On behalf of the entire Penn community, I want to thank President Magill for her service to the University as President and wish her well," Bok wrote.

At the hearing, Magill initially said it was "context dependent" when asked Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked her whether calling for the genocide of Jewish people violates Penn’s code of conduct. Stefanik referenced calls for "Intifada revolution" among some protesters on campus as calls for genocide.

Her comments fueled dozens of congressmen calling for Magill's removal; a House committee opening an investigation into Penn with the threat of subpoenas; and the Wharton Board of Advisors repeatedly calling for a change in University leadership.

Magill is the first president to resign from the Penn presidency for reasons other than a government appointment. Her tenure will become the shortest of any permanent University president in Penn's history, and she is the first Ivy League president to resign amid scandal since 2006, when Larry Summers resigned the Harvard presidency.

The Board of Trustees held an emergency gathering Thursday in the wake of resignation calls from government officials and Penn community members.

Magill expressed regret for her statements in a video released Wednesday evening, pledging to evaluate Penn's policies regarding hate on campus. She announced her resignation a day before a second trustees meeting that had been planned for Sunday.

The announcement also comes two months after Wharton Board of Advisors Chair Marc Rowan called for Magill and Bok's resignation — alleging that the two leaders tolerated "antisemitism" on campus in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. Bok allegedly pressured Rowan and at least three trustees to step down after they publicly criticized the University's response to the Palestine Writes festival. 

In recent months, Magill and Bok faced intense criticism from a number of influential donors, including Rowan; Dick Wolf, the namesake of Penn's Wolf Humanities Center; and Ross Stevens, the namesake of the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance and Technology. Rowan has donated over $50 million to the Wharton School, and this week, Stevens announced he would pull a $100 million donation to the school.

The executive committee of University faculty organization AAUP-Penn wrote in a statement to the DP that trustees, donors, lobbying organizations, and members of Congress have “repeatedly misrepresented the words and deeds of Penn faculty and students who have expressed concern for Palestinian civilians and criticized the war in Gaza.”

Students, politicians, and faculty continued to weigh in on Magill's resignation Saturday evening and Sunday, with many praising Magill for her leadership, some expressing concern about the implications for the future for higher education, and others claiming it was only the first necessary step in combatting antisemitism on campus.

Magill's tenure lasted less than two years, beginning on July 1, 2022. She came to Penn after serving as the dean of Stanford Law School and provost of the University of Virginia; and her ascension to the presidency followed the nomination of former President Amy Gutmann to become the U.S. ambassador to Germany

Magill was nominated as Penn's ninth president on Jan. 13, 2022 and was formally inaugurated in October. In a 30-minute address in Irvine Auditorium, Magill spoke about Penn's commitment to truth.

Magill took office at a time of heightened student activism across campus. During her first Convocation speech in 2022, protestors associated with the Coalition to Save the UC Townhomes interrupted the ceremony, cutting Magill's speech short. Her first semester saw a month-long encampment by Fossil Free Penn on College Green, culminating in the group storming the Penn football field during the Homecoming game on the same weekend as Magill's inauguration.

After FFP stormed the football field at Penn's Homecoming game in November 2022, Magill and Bok released a statement stating that Penn no longer holds any direct investments in fossil fuel companies, further clarifying the University's position on its direct fossil fuel holdings.

In an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian in January, Magill discussed her goals and priorities as she settled into the role. She reaffirmed Penn's commitment to become a carbon-zero University and discussed expanding the University's relationship with West Philadelphia.

In the DP's profile of Magill published during her first months in office, Magill’s colleagues, friends, and students depicted her as a persuadable but resolute leader who would prioritize listening and works behind the scenes to enact change.

In October 2022, Magill also formed The Red and Blue Advisory Committee to inform the University's strategic framework over the next century. The committee was part of an initiative entitled "Tomorrow, Together: Penn's Next Century” that became a new strategic framework to shape the University's upcoming planning and initiatives. 

The framework, announced in December and titled "In Principle and Practice: Penn’s Focus on Tomorrow," is designed to "capture what the world needs from Penn and how we will cultivate a community that rises to the challenge," according to a dedicated webpage for the plan.

Per the Penn Faculty Handbook, “When it becomes necessary to elect a new President, the Chair of the Board of Trustees shall convene a Consultative Committee, composed of trustees, deans, faculty, staff, and students, to advise in the selection process.” 

The chair is also responsible for creating a search committee.

A final candidate is then brought forth by the Executive Committee to be voted on by the full board. A candidate must receive an affirmative vote from two-thirds of the trustees to be elected president.

Read Magill's full message about her resignation here.

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