The escalating violence in Israel and Gaza has no clear end in sight and reverberates around the world, including on our campus. I have condemned the Hamas terrorist attacks that set these tragic events in motion. We mourn the loss of innocent lives across the region.
I am also responsible, as the President of this University, for ensuring the safety and security of our entire community while also safeguarding our ability to carry out our academic mission.
This week’s campus demonstrations come at a time when many members of our community are fearful and experiencing tremendous pain. Peaceful protest—and all that comes with it—is a feature of campus life. As a university, we support free expression, along with a commitment to the safety and security of our community and the values we share and work to advance. The deeply held and disparate views of the Israel-Palestinian conflict often put these sacred values in tension, and this crisis is testing and will test our community in many ways.
Penn will not tolerate and will take immediate action against any incitement to violence or, of course, actual violence. The safety and well-being of all our students, faculty, and staff comes first. Penn Public Safety is working (outlined in a message yesterday) to ensure all students, faculty, and staff feel safe, with clear guidance on what to do if you feel threatened or at risk. I want to assure you that we are monitoring upcoming events closely through Penn Public Safety and are exercising extreme vigilance to prevent violence on our campus. If there is an immediate threat to your physical safety, call our 24/7 PennComm Emergency Call Center: 215-573-3333.
We are all members of the Penn community, and we all deserve to be heard and respected. But hateful speech has no place at Penn. No place. I categorically condemn hateful speech that denigrates others as contrary to our values. In this tragic moment, we must respect the pain of our classmates and colleagues and recognize that our speech and actions have the power to both harm and heal our community. We must choose healing, resisting those who would divide us and instead respect and care for one another.
There are more difficult days ahead, with more casualties and loss to come in this war. Please be kind to yourselves, approach each other from a place of compassion and understanding, and seek support when you need it. The Penn community is here for you.
M. Elizabeth Magill
Trustees University Professor and Professor of Law
University of Pennsylvania