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Penn Vet was denied over $30 million in funding after fallout over the recent congressional hearing. Credit: Kylie Cooper

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted yesterday to withhold more than $31 million dollars in funding from the School of Veterinary Medicine in the wake of concerns over antisemitism on Penn’s campus. 

In a Dec. 13 vote, the majority of Republicans voted against approving the funding, while every Democrat voted in favor. The legislation received majority approval but did not receive the two-thirds majority that is required for passage by the state Constitution. 

Penn Vet is the only state funded veterinary school and has received funding since 1889. The funding block also halted $1.8 million dollars designated for the Penn Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases. 

Penn Vet Chief Communications Officer Martin Hackett wrote in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian that Penn Vet is “deeply disappointed” in last night's vote, describing the school as “a vital part of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry.”

“The School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is the sole beneficiary of these funds, and the school has continued to fulfill its educational and service missions to the Commonwealth in good faith throughout this six-month impasse, as it has for over 139 years,” Hackett wrote.

“We hope the state House will reconsider this vote when it reconvenes in 2024,” he added.

In a floor debate, House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said that he “cannot in good conscience support this funding,” until more is done at Penn. Cutler acknowledged that while the resignation of Penn President Liz Magill was a start, the University must do more “in terms of rooting out, calling out and making an official stance on antisemitism.”

The funding “may not be blocked in perpetuity,” adding that there is an “additional process now that must take place before the funding is agreed to” Cutler press secretary Jason Gottesman told the DP.

If the State Senate was to insist that its version of the bill move forward, a conference committee would be convened bringing together representatives from all four caucuses to “work together to overcome differences relative to the legislation” and move forward, Gottesman added.

Within the past week, several Pa. State House Republicans proposed bills to combat antisemitism in educational institutions across the state.

If passed, the legislation would require all college campuses who receive state funding to define antisemitism as “bulling/harrassment,” provide increased transparency surrounding Holocaust education, and make Nov. 9 “Antisemitism Awareness and Education Day” in Pennsylvania.

Nicole Reigelman, press secretary to Pa. House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia), told the DP “that denying funding to Penn Vet will have little impact beyond hurting students and it will have long term negative consequences on Pennsylvania's entire agricultural sector."

"House Republican Leaders have consistently relied on unrelated hot button political and social issues as an excuse to grandstand and withhold funding from the University of Pennsylvania and the commonwealth's other state related institutions," Reigelman added.

Pa. Rep. Rick Krajewski (D-Philadelphia), a 2013 Penn Engineering graduate, echoed similar points in a statement to the DP.

"I was proud to vote for Penn Vet funding and frustrated that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are using this as yet another opportunity to bully their way into getting what they want," Krajewski wrote. "This is not a productive way to have a conversation about campus safety. This is an attack on the independence of higher education from the right, and we should take it seriously."

Pa. Rep. Christopher Rabb (D-Philadelphia) told the DP that this withholding of funding serves as an “attack” on the liberal arts and critical thinking.

Rabb, a 2006 graduate of the College of Liberal and Professional Studies, said that this serves as an example of Republicans using the “plight of Jewish Americans to further their right wing agenda” without real care for the Jewish community.

“Anyone who focuses on one form of bigotry and remains silent on others is part of the problem,” Rabb added, stating that many Republican lawmakers have remained silent about instances of Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment.

On Dec. 8, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that multiple Pennsylvania state senators were withholding their votes to fund the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine until Penn President Liz Magill resigned.

Pa. State Senator and 1992 University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School graduate Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks), who had previously called for Magill’s resignation, told the DP last week — prior to her resignation — that it was “very possible” that there were enough votes in the state senate to prevent the funding.

Pennsylvania lawmakers have previously threatened to withhold funding from Penn Vet. 

In 2021, Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives threatened to cut $32 million in funding from Penn Vet for requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

In 2017, a budget stalemate between Harrisburg legislators jeopardized Penn Vet's $30 million — or 20% of its then-operating budget — in state funding for four months for the fiscal year 2017.