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Penn loses $100 million donation after antisemitism hearing

Penn loses $100 million donation after antisemitism hearing

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) lost a major $100 million donation on Thursday amid the fallout from Penn President Liz Magill’s comments at a recent House hearing on campus antisemitism.

In a letter to Penn Senior Vice President Wendy White, lawyers for Ross Stevens, the founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, said Stevens would be withdrawing his gift, now valued at about $100 million, that was expected to fund the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance.

Stevens’s lawyers allege Penn violated the terms of Stone Ridge’s limited partner agreement with the school.

“Mr. Stevens and Stone Ridge are appalled by the University’s stance on antisemitism on campus,” Stevens’s lawyers wrote. “Its permissive approach to hate speech calling for violence against Jews and laissez faire attitude toward harassment and discrimination against Jewish students would violate any policies or rules that prohibit harassment and discrimination based on religion, including those of Stone Ridge.”

The letter noted Stevens and Stone Ridge would be open to discussing the matter further and would give the school the chance to “remedy” its alleged violations of the agreement.

“Until then, there can be no meaningful discussion about remedying the University’s ongoing failure to honor its obligations,” attorneys Neil Barr and Dana M. Seshens wrote.

Stevens is a graduate of Penn and also has a child who recently graduated from the school. Another one of his children is a junior at the university.

“Absent a change in leadership and values at Penn in the very near future, I plan to rescind Penn’s Stone Ridge shares to prevent any further reputational and other damage to Stone Ridge as a result of our relationship with Penn and Liz Magill,” Stevens wrote in a note to his staff on Thursday. “I love Penn and it is important to me, but our firm’s principles are more important.”

Two days earlier, Magill was asked at the House hearing if calls for the genocide of the Jewish people would be considered harassment on campus, to which she responded, “If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) responded, “Conduct meaning committing the act of genocide?”

On Wednesday, Magill released a video seeking to clarify her comments. She claimed in her view that a call for Jewish genocide “would be harassment or intimidation.”

“In that moment, I was focused on our university’s long-standing policies, aligned with the U.S. Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable,” she said. “I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate.”

She further argued Penn and other schools should review and clarify their policies, vowing to immediately “convene a process” with the provost to take “a serious and careful” look at the university’s policies.

Stevens’s lawyers pointed to Magill’s post, arguing the Penn leader “belatedly acknowledged — only after her Congressional testimony went viral and demands for her termination amplified — that calls or genocide of the Jewish people constitute harassment and discrimination.”

Earlier on Thursday, House Education Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) announced an investigation into Penn, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology following comments made by Magill and the other school presidents.

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