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Pennsylvania Leaders React to Magill’s Congressional Testimony

It will go down as the testimony heard ’round the academic world and could end up being one of the final acts of three different college presidencies.

University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill, along with presidents of Harvard and MIT, testified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and the firestorm from their comments have brought together political leaders from both sides of the aisle in condemnation.

Speaking before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the trio of college leaders defended their responses to incidents of antisemitism on their campuses.

The flashpoint came when questioned by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who asked for a yes-or-no response on whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated the schools’ codes of conduct. In varying ways, Magill, Harvard University president Claudine Gay, MIT president Sally Kornbluth said their answers would be context specific, and related to whether speech turned into conduct.

Republicans had started a crusade on woke culture at colleges and universities long before Magill testified or the war between Israel and Hamas began.

The hearing represented an opportunity to discuss the increase in antisemitism on campuses amid a larger Republican argument that elite institutions are not in touch with everyday Americans. In her introductory remarks, the chair of the committee Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), called antisemitism the “poisoned fruits” of the colleges’ cultures and drew a connection between a rise in antisemitism and universities’ antiracism and DEI missions.

Pennsylvania leaders were quick to respond to Magill’s comments.

Gov. Josh Shapiro was one of the first to condemn Magill, saying “That was an unacceptable statement … Frankly, I thought her comments were absolutely shameful. It should not be hard to condemn genocide.”

Others joined in.

Magill attempted to clarify her comments with a video released shortly after her testimony.

For some, that was too little, too late.

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