The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


College Hall on March 18, 2023.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Penn filed a motion earlier this week to dismiss a lawsuit filed by several professors alleging a pattern of "McCarthyism" for preventing speech in opposition to Israel and seeking to stop the University from submitting documents to Congress.

The lawsuit was originally filed on March 9 by associate professor of Arabic literature Huda Fakhreddine and history and Africana studies professor Eve Troutt Powell in conjunction with Penn Faculty for Justice in Palestine, a collective of Penn faculty who say they are standing in solidarity with Palestinians. The complaint alleges that efforts to investigate the University over alleged antisemitism on campus have threatened professors' academic freedom.

Penn’s motion to dismiss sharply disagrees with the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, which was filed approximately a month after their initial complaint, calling the motion “meritless.”

A University spokesperson declined to comment.

At the time of the initial filing, a press release from PFJP said that the lawsuit hopes to convince the University not to comply with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s request for a plethora of documents pertaining to on-campus antisemitism. According to the press release, the request included "teaching files, emails, and other material for political scrutiny."

The Committee first opened its investigation into Penn on Dec. 7, 2023, following former Penn President Liz Magill’s testimony before Congress on Dec. 5. On Feb. 7, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that Penn would begin a multi-week process of transferring documents to the Committee. The requested documents included those relating to antisemitism or anti-Zionism on campus, pro-Palestine groups and actions at Penn, foreign donations to the University, and data on Jewish enrollment.

Penn’s response to the complaint contends that “Plaintiffs’ issue is with HEW and not with Penn,” citing the Committee’s motives, definition of antisemitism, and ongoing investigation into the University.

The new motion provides several responses to both the plaintiffs’ lawsuit and motion for a preliminary injunction. It contends that all of the claims lack standing because the original complaint “offer[s] nothing but allegations of possible future injury” rather than any injury that is “certainly impending.”

“Plaintiffs may disagree with Penn’s decision to comply with HEW’s request. But that disagreement does not entitle them to this Court’s jurisdiction,” the lawsuit reads. “Because they have failed to allege enough facts that come close to showing any future injury that is likely to occur—much less certainly impending—their complaint must be dismissed for lack of … standing.”

The response also contends that the plaintiffs’ claims under the United States Constitution and Pennsylvania Constitution fail because they did not sufficiently demonstrate that Penn is a state actor.

The University’s third response to the complaint contends that the plaintiffs failed to state a breach of contract claim by not identifying specific promises and assertions made by Penn.

Penn also contends that the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction should be dismissed due to their aforementioned arguments for why the case should be dismissed. If not dismissed, however, the University also posits that the request should be dismissed “because Plaintiffs have come nowhere close to satisfying their heavy burden.”

Penn — while citing several of their arguments used in response to the motion to dismiss — argues that the preliminary injunction request should be denied because the plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims and unlikely to “suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief.” It also contends that the requested injunctive relief would harm the House education committee and not be in the public interest.

On April 30, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) announced that he is expanding the House education committee’s investigation into a housewide probe into antisemitism on college campuses. At the time, a Committee on Education and the Workforce aide told the DP that their investigation was going to continue despite the housewide expansion.

The House Committee on Ways and Means also announced a probe into Penn’s tax-exempt status on January 10, citing an alleged “failure” to protect Jewish students on campus.