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After withholding $31 million in funding from Penn Vet, members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives formed a task force to combat antisemitism on Penn's campus. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives formed a task force to address antisemitism on Penn's campus in the wake of the state's withholding of funding from the School of Veterinary Medicine.

Pennsylvania state Rep. and Republican Leader of the Pennsylvania House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) wrote to Interim Penn President J. Larry Jameson and Penn Vet Dean Andrew Hoffman, expressing concern with the lack of immediate changes to address antisemitism on campus. 

The letter, which was sent on Dec. 20, follows the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voting to withhold $31 million in funding from Penn Vet on Dec. 13. Penn Vet has received state funding since 1889 and is the only veterinary school in Pennsylvania.

A University spokesperson wrote that Jameson and Hoffman "appreciate that members of the legislature want to find a path forward on funding the School of Veterinary Medicine” in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

“As part of Penn’s Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism, we pledged to engage broadly and deeply and welcome input from all who share our commitment to combatting hate in all its forms,” the spokesperson wrote.

The letter informed Jameson and Hoffman of the formation of an “envoy” of five Republican state representatives that will work with Penn to achieve “several university and legislative goals that will show [Penn’s] commitment to rooting out and protecting against antisemitism.” 

“Penn Vet and the Commonwealth have traditionally enjoyed a non-controversial relationship that recognizes Penn Vet’s extraordinary contributions to veterinary medicine and our state’s agricultural foundation,” Cutler wrote. “However, months of disturbing reports of antisemitic activity at the University of Pennsylvania (“Penn”) have been more than troubling to many members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus in particular.” 

Cutler said that former Penn President Liz Magill’s resignation and the formation of a task force to combat antisemitism were “good first steps,” but would not immediately help current and prospective students. 

The task force consists of five state representatives — Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford/Fulton), Rep. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne), Rep. Rob Mercuri (R-Allegheny), Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks), and Rep. Tom Jones (R-Lancaster/Lebanon). Mercuri and Marcell previously announced a legislative package to combat antisemitism in education — which Kaufer supported — on Dec. 11.

The task force’s goals include receiving a statement from the University that condemns antisemitic behavior and calls for genocide, confirmation that such actions violate Penn’s Code of Student Conduct, University support for legislation at the state level, and a review of student organization and University spending. 

Topper, the Republican chair of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee, told the DP that he believes conversations with the University and the Board of Trustees will be vital to move forward. 

“We need to establish and regain a bit of trust that that we can feel comfortable with the University's code of conduct with where they stand on on certain fundamental, basic human rights issues,” Topper said. 

In a previous statement to the DP, Penn Vet Chief Communications Officer Martin Hackett said that Penn Vet was “deeply disappointed” in the vote to withhold its funding, and hoped that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would reconsider during its next legislative session. 

“I do see a path forward for Penn Vet to receive funding and continue their relationship as we do with one another,” Topper said. “But there needs to be concerns addressed.”