Penn Donors Are Revolting on Israel-Hamas, DEI, Trans Rights, and Other Issues

Penn Donors Are Revolting on Israel-Hamas, DEI, Trans Rights, and Other Issues

Since then, some of Penn’s most influential alumni and benefactors — including Mr. Lauder, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf — have joined Mr. Rowan in pulling up the funding.

However, even before the conference, tensions were rising at Penn over what some donors saw as a leftward shift by the university, including a transgender athlete on the women’s swim team and the dean of business on diversity, equity and inclusion. Emphasis on programs was included. School. He was also concerned about the declining number of Jewish students.

It turned out that some donors had stopped contributing long before the conference.

“Conservatives have conflicting issues and the pro-Israel stuff is one of them,” said Penn professor Robert Vitalis, who previously ran the university’s Middle East Center. Supported Palestinian writer. “The conference became a medium.”

It is not uncommon for donors unhappy with student activism to withdraw from donations. Many universities have struggled to bridge political and cultural divides between donors, faculty, and students. At the University of Texas at Austin, alumni threatened to cut funding over efforts to dismantle the university song fightAnd at the University of Denver, President George W. Plan to give Bush an award attracts donors Anger,

But donors rarely try to topple leadership so publicly. For many who watched the fight, the campaign to gain control over the direction of the university – its policies, principles, and vision for the future – was troubling.

The donor outcry dismayed pro-Palestinian alumni, who criticized the Penn administration, as well as influential donors, for ignoring the treatment of Palestinians in the ensuing violence in an open letter on October 18.

“Reports from UN and WHO experts highlight the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe,” the letter said. “More than a million people have been displaced, countless lives lost or forever changed.”

University administrators declined requests for interviews. But Risa L. Lieberwitz, a Cornell professor who researches academic freedom and faculty governance, said pressure from donors could undermine public trust in institutions.

“It is essential that universities remain independent from donor pressure or influence on the content of the work done at the university,” said Ms. Lieberwitz, who is also general counsel for the American Association of University Professors. “The public needs to trust us that we are doing research or teaching or other educational activities without pressure to take certain positions.”

When she was inaugurated as president a year ago, Ms. Magill seemed to have the perfect pedigree. As provost at the University of Virginia, he helped develop a version of the Chicago Principles, aimed at protecting free speech on campus.

“Broadly speaking, I am deeply committed to academic freedom,” Ms. Magill said. told The Daily Pennsylvanian, campus newspaper.

Debates over academic freedom were stirring Penn’s campus. Several students and alumni had called for action against Penn Law professor Amy Wax, who said that black people have “lower cognitive abilities” than white people and that the country is “better off” without Asians. The outcome of the faculty hearing considering sanctions has not been announced.

It was against this backdrop that Ms Magill began receiving complaints about the Palestine Rights Literature Festival, which took place on the weekend of 22 September, partly coinciding with Yom Kippur. The conference, organized in conjunction with the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, featured 120 speakers, many of whom were literary figures, almost all of them pro-Palestine.

Mr. Lauder, the cosmetics billionaire whose family name is on both a dormitory and a business school program, went to meet Ms. Magill and asked her to cancel the conference. Similar complaints, some of which demanded cancellation, came from national and local Jewish groups and students from the Jewish campus organization Pen Hillel.

He cited several speakers whom he considered objectionable. For example, he noted the presence of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, an outspoken supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel movement known as BDS, and Pink Floyd. Objected to musician Roger Waters, who wore Nazi-like attire to a Berlin concert, which he said was intended to make a statement against fascism.

Despite opposition and anti-Semitism Events The conference continued on the campus.

In an opening speech, novelist and conference organizer Susan Albuhawa criticized the “frantic racist conversations and panic” at the festival.

“We are proud, unwavering, defiant, honoring our ancestors, even as we are oppressed, colonized, exiled, raw, terrorized and humiliated,” she says. Said,

A day after the Indigenous Peoples Day post, Ms Magill released her first post statement Condemn Hamas attack

Critics said it was insufficiently strong.

On the same day Mr. Rowan presented a personal opinion In The Daily Pennsylvanian, he criticized Ms. Magill for condemning the conference, calling her a “moral failure.” He urged alumni to send $1 checks and repeated the call on CNBC’s “”squawk box,

Mr. Rowan serves as chairman of the board of Wharton, the university’s business school, where many of Penn’s major donors earned their degrees. The school, which wields tremendous influence over the university’s operations, is responsible for the majority of Penn’s fundraising and reputation.

Some Wharton alumni had long been unhappy with the direction of the university.

Jonathan S. Jacobson, who founded the investment firm HighSage Ventures, wrote in a recent letter Ms. Magill reported that he and his wife had given “more than seven-figure” gifts, including significant funds, to Penn’s basketball program over the years.

But, he wrote, he began cutting donations about two years ago. He wrote, “The university that I attended and shaped me is almost unrecognizable today and the values ​​it stands for are not American.”

He added, “You are the product of a deeply dysfunctional higher education value system, where academic rigor has been replaced by extremist political ideology.”

She also suggested that the university had pressured the women on the swim team and their parents not to speak publicly about transgender athlete Lia Thomas.

In a text message, Mr. Jacobson said he would not elaborate on why he stopped giving, but he said, “I stopped supporting Penn for several reasons.”

Other Wharton alumni questioned the direction of the business school.

Since starting as dean in 2020, Erica James is the first Black woman to hold the position Stressed on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs – including Add Undergraduate major on the subject – as well as environmental, social and corporate administration.

That agenda may have alienated some alumni. In his opinion piece, Mr. Rowan wrote that the university had “already lost” a $100 million gift, a reference to a donation to the University of Chicago’s Booth Business School by Stone Ridge Asset Management founder Ross Stevens.

Dr. Stevens, an alumnus of both Booth and Wharton, signed the open letter.

He would not publicly discuss his $100 million donation to Booth. But two friends confirmed that she had planned to give the money to Wharton, but changed her mind because she felt the school was prioritizing DEI over enhancing the academic excellence of the business school.

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