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Philadelphia Police gather at the site of the encampment on College Green on May 10. Credit: Chenyao Liu

As an alumnus of Penn, I received communication from the University a few days ago regarding the removal by Penn Police in riot gear (with the assistance of the Philadelphia Police Department) of the encampment of students protesting Israel's violations of the human rights of Palestinians in Gaza. The University's actions have not been fair or even-handed to these students, and I believe the administration is on the wrong side of history.  

In my view, the students’ demands have been reasonable and just, as this war shows no signs of ending. On Oct. 7, a Hamas raid (which I have condemned) killed 1,100 Israelis. Today, Israel's eight-month military operations have killed 40,000 people, displaced nearly 2 million, and destroyed more than 50% of the buildings in Gaza. What Israel has done is not justice or defense, but rather barbarism and immorality by the standards of the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim religions, or by any reasonable standard of international law. It is for this reason that the International Court of Justice has allowed a case for genocide to proceed against Israel.  

I was especially appalled that dozens of Penn faculty members traveled to Israel in January and met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who is specifically mentioned in the International Court of Justice finding. This is equivalent to a faculty member meeting with Vladimir Putin or Slobodan Milošević. I cannot believe that any Arab, Palestinian, or Muslim student could think that they would be treated fairly by these faculty.

To say that Penn has been even-handed in its dealings with pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students is demonstrably false. Shortly after Oct. 7, Penn convened an antisemitism task force, which was done in partnership with the American Jewish Committee, and we have received continuous communication about this committee. I call on Penn to immediately establish a task force to specifically address Islamophobia and anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism on campus, and that this task force work in cooperation with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.  

I also call on Penn to evaluate investments in any activity which may violate human rights or international law. Such an approach needs to be applied to Israel in light of events in Gaza, but should also be applied to any other countries committing war crimes or human rights violations.

The demands of the students protesting on College Green were just by any reasonable standards. The University refused offers of mediation by several members of the Philadelphia City Council. Penn's actions do not enhance public safety and will produce a chilling effect on free speech in the future. I call on Penn to drop any charges against the students involved in the encampment, and apologize to the community for excessive use of force.

I am currently a Platinum-level alumni donor to Penn. I am currently serving on the alumni admissions committee, and I am active in the Penn and Wharton clubs of Chicago. I will continue to support the University, but I want to reiterate how very disappointed I am in Penn's response to this crisis.

GEORGE HONIG is a 1987 Wharton graduate. His email is