President Liz Magill has come under increasing pressure from Penn's Jewish student and alumni community since her testimony this week before a congressional committee on antisemitism. At the hearing, she declined to say definitively that a person calling for the genocide of Jews would violate Penn's code of conduct related to bullying and harassment.
The Oct. 7 attack on Israel by the Islamist militant group Hamas and Israel's massive counterattack on Gaza have claimed thousands of lives and turned U.S. college campuses into hotbeds of protest.
University leaders - especially Magill and Harvard President Claudine Gay, who testified at the same hearing this week in Congress - have come under fire from the Jewish communities and others at their schools who believe they have not done enough to stand up against antisemitism.
Many pro-Palestinian groups on college campuses are also outraged at what they believe has been a lack of support from school leadership for their cause, and a lack of consequences for Islamophobic rhetoric.
The undated letter from Wharton's Board of Advisors, first obtained by Penn's student newspaper and published by Axios on Thursday, called on the university's Board of Trustees and Magill to initiate a change in leadership.
"As a result of the University leadership's stated beliefs and collective failure to act, our Board respectfully suggests to you and the Board of Trustees that the University requires new leadership with immediate effect," the letter said.
Wharton's Board of Advisors is led by the billionaire CEO of Apollo Global Management, Marc Rowan, who gave $50 million to Wharton in 2018 and has urged donors to refrain from giving to the school until Magill and the Board of Trustees chair resign, according to media reports.
Wharton, founded in 1881, is the world's oldest collegiate business school. The list of its notable graduates include Tesla founder Elon Musk, investor Ronald Perelman and former U.S. President Donald Trump.
CODE OF CONDUCT VIOLATION?
At Tuesday's congressional committee hearing, Republican Representative Elise Stefanik of New York grilled Magill, Gay and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth about whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated their schools' rules or code of conduct regarding bullying and harassment.
"If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment," Magill replied. "If it is directed and severe and pervasive, it is harassment."
Kornbluth and Gay gave similar answers, each declining to give a simple "yes" or "no" to the question posed by Stefanik.
In a video statement posted online after the hearing, Magill said she should have focused more on the "evil" of advocating genocide, instead of framing the matter as an issue of free speech in line with the U.S. Constitution and traditions of on-campus debate.
"I want to be clear. A call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening, deeply so," Magill said.
In its letter, the Wharton board requested the university amend its policies to reflect that students "will not celebrate or advocate for the murder, killing, genocide, or annihilation of any individual classmate or any group of individuals in our community."
Gay apologized for her remarks at the hearing in an interview with Harvard's student newspaper on Thursday.
"I got caught up in what had become, at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures," she told the newspaper.
"What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community -- threats to our Jewish students -- have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged."
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
By Gabriella Borter