Dear members of the Penn community,
In the past days and weeks, I have heard from and spoken with many of you, with gratitude for your openness and candor. The University has made public statements denouncing acts of antisemitism on our campus and the terrorist attacks in Israel. Today, as Penn’s President, I want to speak directly and personally to all of you, to share my thoughts and to offer what I hope is some measure of clarity and comfort in this difficult time.
I want to leave no doubt about where I stand. I, and this University, are horrified by and condemn Hamas’s terrorist assault on Israel and their violent atrocities against civilians. There is no justification—none—for these heinous attacks, which have consumed the region and are inciting violence in other parts of the world.
I am heartbroken by the suffering of families and communities being ripped apart. Hostages are in peril. Thousands of lives have been taken, each a world lost. The war will take many more, with no end in sight.
Here on campus and across our Penn community, people are hurting. They are angry and scared. They are thinking of loved ones and friends—constantly checking email and texts for news, terrified for those threatened by violence. These events, and the anxiety and uncertainty of the unknown that lies ahead, weigh heavily on us all.
Penn will continue monitoring threats of violence here, in our city, and in other parts of the world. As part of our planning, Penn’s Division of Public Safety has further increased security and support for centers of Jewish life on and near campus. We will continue our outreach and support for faculty, students, and staff and will keep our entire community updated.
At Penn, we are confronting these events in the wake of recent antisemitic acts on campus and individuals, with a public history of speaking out viciously against the Jewish people, appearing on campus as part of the Palestine Writes Literature Festival.
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. 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.
I stand, and Penn stands, emphatically against antisemitism. We have a moral responsibility—as an academic institution and a campus community—to combat antisemitism and to educate our community to recognize and reject hate. I look forward to continuing to work with Jewish leaders, faculty, students, and staff at Penn and elsewhere to ensure we are fostering a safe and inclusive environment.
This is a hard moment in the world. Recent events on Penn’s campus make it that much harder. But at vigils held in front of the LOVE statue and across campus to honor and mourn innocent lives lost, I have seen people connecting and comforting one another. In all this anguish, there is hope.
Wherever you are, I hope you find comfort in this community we share. You are not alone. I stand with you. Penn stands with you. We will continue to work for meaningful and enduring change, together.
M. Elizabeth Magill
Trustees University Professor and Professor of Law
University of Pennsylvania