Controversy at University of Pennsylvania Over Palestinian Conference
Tensions Rise at University of Pennsylvania
Following the recent Hamas attack in Israel, influential Jewish alumni at the University of Pennsylvania have been pressuring university officials to take a stance on the war. The campus was already embroiled in controversy over a Palestinian literary conference, which has further fueled the conflict.
Alumni Call for Resignation of University Officials
Angry over the university’s response to the conference, prominent alumni have called for the resignation of the school’s president, Liz Magill, and the university’s chairman, Scott L. Bok. Marc Rowan, CEO of Apollo Global Management and chair of the university’s Wharton School board, is leading the effort. Despite being a generous donor, Rowan has even urged others to cut off funds.
Objecting to Speakers and Content
The controversy began over a festival showcasing Palestinian art and culture, which Penn did not officially sponsor but allowed on its campus. Various Jewish groups objected to certain speakers, including musician Roger Waters and Marc Lamont Hill, a Penn alum and professor. The groups claimed that their views were offensive and potentially anti-Semitic, which Waters and Hill denied.
University’s Response and Alumni Backlash
In response, President Magill called the inclusion of objectionable speakers “deeply offensive” but emphasized Penn’s commitment to open expression and academic freedom. This, however, has not appeased the wealthy alumni who have been vocal in their criticism of the university’s handling of the situation.
Escalating Tensions with Alumni
Wealthy donors at other universities, such as Harvard, have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the presidents’ responses to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Lawrence H. Summers, a former president of Harvard, and billionaire Israeli couple Idan and Batia Ofer have publicly condemned the lack of support from university leadership.
Challenges for President Magill
President Magill, who joined Penn only last year, has faced significant backlash over the Palestine Writes Literature Festival. Despite efforts to address concerns, including increased training in anti-Semitic awareness and enhanced security measures, critics remain unsatisfied. Thousands of Penn alumni and supporters have signed a protest letter.
The Impact on Conference Organizers
Conference organizers, who had been planning the event for a year, have been disheartened by the administration’s response. The event, intended to be a celebration of Palestinian literature and culture, was treated as a potential security threat. The presence of police officers and a counterterrorism unit at the conference left organizers disappointed and disillusioned.
Continued Calls for Change
The controversy surrounding the Palestinian conference at the University of Pennsylvania shows no signs of abating. Alumni, including influential figures like Dick Wolf, producer of the “Law & Order” franchise, are demanding accountability and change from university officials.
Read More of this Story at www.nytimes.com – 2023-10-14 04:09:00
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