Penn President Only Referred To Hamas As Terrorists After Major Donor Said He Would Stop Giving Money

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James Lynch Contributor
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University of Pennsylvania (Penn) President Liz Magill did not refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization until she issued a statement Sunday condemning campus antisemitism after prominent donor Jon Huntsman Jr. said his family would stop giving money to the university.

Huntsman emailed Magill about his family’s decision to end its philanthropic support prior to a statement she released Sunday containing harsher rhetoric towards Hamas’ terrorist assault on Israel and explicit condemnation of antisemitic Palestinian activism on Penn’s campus. (RELATED: Penn Loses Billionaire Donor Over ‘Silence’ Regarding Israel)

“Moral relativism has fueled the university’s race to the bottom and sadly now has reached a point where remaining impartial is no longer an option,” Huntsman wrote in an email obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian, a campus paper at the university.

“The University’s silence in the face of reprehensible and historic Hamas evil against the people of Israel (when the only response should be outright condemnation) is a new low,” Huntsman added. “Silence is antisemitism, and antisemitism is hate, the very thing higher ed was built to obviate.”

Huntsman, a 1987 Penn graduate, has an estimated $1 billion net worth and spoke at the university’s 2010 commencement ceremony. The Huntsman family has given at least $50 million to the university over three generations, and its name is on the main building for Penn’s prestigious Wharton School of Business, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Huntsman Jr. is a former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. ambassador in both the Obama and Trump administrations.

Magill issued a statement shortly thereafter clarifying her position on Hamas’ terrorist attack and Palestinian activism on Penn’s campus.

“I want to leave no doubt about where I stand. I, and this University, are horrified by and condemn Hamas’s terrorist assault on Israel and their violent atrocities against civilians. There is no justification—none—for these heinous attacks, which have consumed the region and are inciting violence in other parts of the world,” Magill said in a Sunday message to the Penn community.

“At Penn, we are confronting these events in the wake of recent antisemitic acts on campus and individuals, with a public history of speaking out viciously against the Jewish people, appearing on campus as part of the Palestine Writes Literature Festival,” she added.

The Palestine Writes Literature Festival was a controversial event on Penn’s campus that took place in late September despite outcry from the university’s Jewish community beforehand. Magill issued a statement Sept. 12 about the upcoming event in which she defended the free exchange of ideas while vaguely coming out against antisemitism. Penn is a private university and is not bound by First Amendment protections for campus speech.

Magill initially called Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel a “horrific assault” in an Oct. 10 statement that did not mention terrorism or antisemitism. She previously condemned antisemitism after multiple antisemitic incidents occurred on Penn’s campus in September, including an incident where a swastika appeared to be painted on the wall of a booth inside the university’s Weitzman School of Design.

Penn Board of Trustees member Vahan Gureghian resigned in protest Saturday after an emergency board meeting was held Friday related to recent events on campus, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. (RELATED: Pro-Hamas Student Group At UCLA Advertised ‘Teach-In’ With Two Professors Ahead Of Campus Rally Supporting Hamas)

“Like so many elite academic institutions, the leadership of UPenn has failed us through an embrace of antisemitism, a failure to stand for justice, and complete negligence in the defense of its own students’ well being,'” Gureghian said in a statement.

Scott Bok, chairman of the board of trustees, issued a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian condemning “the atrocious terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israel” after Gureghian’s resignation. “We stand with our Jewish students, faculty, staff, and alumni and with Jewish people all over the world,” he added.

Hamas’ terrorist assault on Israel has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 civilians, including 30 American citizens, the State Department confirmed Sunday. Thirteen Americans remain missing, according to the department, while nearly 200 people are believed to be held hostage by Hamas. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has launched a counteroffensive in the disputed Gaza Strip territory in response to Hamas’ attack.

Hamas killed an estimated 260 people at a music festival held in Israel featuring artists from all around the world. Israeli citizens and witnesses described piles of butchered bodies left in the streets by Hamas terrorists in the wake of their assault on Israel.

Penn has come under scrutiny for allowing biological male Lia Thomas, who identifies as a transgender female, to participate in women’s swimming competitions after Thomas was initially recruited as a member of the men’s team. Thomas has dominated women’s swimming at the collegiate level and allegedly exposed his genitalia to female competitors in the locker room during the NCAA championships.

The university is closely tied to President Joe Biden and his embattled son, Hunter Biden, whose daughter Maisy graduated from the school in May. Amy Gutmann, the Biden administration’s U.S. Ambassador to Germany, served as president of the university prior to Magill’s appointment in 2022.

The University of Pennsylvania did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment by the time of publication.