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University Faculty Cry ‘Intimidation’ After Donors Pull Funding Over Statements on Hamas

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

By: Kate Anderson, Daily Caller News Foundation

Three leaders of the University of Pennsylvania faculty senate released a statement Thursday condemning those who “use their pocketbooks to shape our mission” after donors began withdrawing support over the school’s response to the Israel-Hamas war.

UPenn donors began pulling their funding from the university after President Liz Magill failed to initially label Hamas as a terrorist organization in an Oct. 10 statement about the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians. The university’s faculty senate tri-chairs, Tulia G. Falleti, Eric A. Feldman and Vivian L. Gadsden, accused individuals of trying to censor free speech by “surveilling both faculty and students” and criticized those who would try to use their “pocketbooks” to buy the speech of university students and faculty, according to the statement.

“Let us be clear: academic freedom is an essential component of a world-class university and is not a commodity that can be bought or sold by those who seek to use their pocketbooks to shape our mission,” the faculty wrote. “We stand in solidarity with all University of Pennsylvania faculty, staff, and students whose research, work, or study has been affected by the recent efforts of intimidation. Academic freedom is at the heart of our educational and research missions, and we demand that it remain free from internal or external pressure or coercion.”

Magill eventually released another statement on Oct. 15 to “leave no doubt about where I stand” and clarified that she condemns “Hamas’s terrorist assault on Israel.” Donors, however, have continued to drop, citing not only the university’s response to the attacks but also criticizing UPenn for hosting the Palestine Writes Literature Festival in September, which hosted multiple individuals who have openly glorified and even affiliated with terrorist groups.

Some of the donors leaving included Jon Huntsman Jr., a UPenn alumnus and former U.S. ambassador, David Magerman, a computer scientist who helped create Renaissance Technologies, and Daniel Lowy, an alum of UPenn’s Wharton School of Business and founder of EMU Health, along with several others, according to the New York Sun.

Magill addressed the criticism of the literature festival in her statement, saying that she was aware of “how painful the presence” of the speakers was for the Jewish community.

“Many have voiced their anger and frustration about this event. Please know that I hear you. I know how painful the presence of these speakers on Penn’s campus was for the Jewish community, especially during the holiest time of the Jewish year, and at a University deeply proud of its long history of being a welcoming place for Jewish people,” Magill said. “The University did not, and emphatically does not, endorse these speakers or their views. While we did communicate, we should have moved faster to share our position strongly and more broadly with the Penn community.”

Falleti, Feldman and Gadsden did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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