Moving forward, together

At the Nov. 3 Stated Meeting of the Trustees, President Liz Magill said that she is a president ‘for all people in this community,’ and encouraged finding common ground to support and protect each other and the University’s mission.

Liz Magill speaking at Trustees

At Friday’s public Stated Meeting of the Trustees, President Liz Magill called upon the people of Penn “to move forward and to uphold our academic mission,” while standing together as a community.

“A community that condemns hate and finds ways to respectfully debate and talk across difference,” Magill continued. “A community that leads with care and compassion.”

Magill’s remarks come just two days after she announced Penn’s Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism, launched amidst a resurgence of hatred and bigotry against Jewish people in society and on college campuses, including at Penn.

“I condemn personally these hateful—hateful—antisemitic acts and words, which are nothing but inhumane. And I assure you that Penn has and will investigate any act of hate on our campus and take full action in accordance with the policies and the laws,” Magill said to the Trustees, who filled a conference room at the Inn at Penn. “The vibrant engagement of Jewish faculty, students, staff, and alumni has long been such an important part of who Penn is. To see their sense of belonging shaken by this hurt and fear—that is intolerable.”

She noted how in recent weeks, some have doubted her convictions, or questioned her effectiveness in communicating her and the University’s core beliefs. “I regret that,” Magill said, “and I am listening.”

In announcing the Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism, which centers on Safety and Security, Engagement, and Education, and includes the creation of a new University Task Force of faculty, student, staff, and alumni leaders, chaired by Penn Dental Medicine Dean Mark Wolff, Magill also acknowledged the interconnectedness of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate. She committed to convening and charging a Presidential Commission, chaired by Penn Engineering Dean Vijay Kumar and Penn Graduate School of Education Dean Katharine Strunk, to address these challenges, too.

During her meeting with the Trustees, Magill said Penn would defend the “free exchange of ideas that is essential to our educational mission,” adding that “those in positions of leadership must not act as censors.”

“Our duty is to ensure that our faculty and student scholars have freedom and security to pursue academic discourse unthreatened,” she said. “At the same time, we will contest hateful views and repellant ideas on our campus. We can counter hate speech. And we will. That is what moral leadership demands.”

Magill added that she is a president “for all people in this community,” and urged those in disagreement to find common ground on which to “support and protect each other and this University.” She wants Penn to stay true to its mission, one that she’s insisted upon since her very first days as president: Bringing the institution’s research, teaching, and mission to light to take on urgent challenges.

“It is the honor of my lifetime to lead this amazing University,” Magill said. “I am grateful for the strong support I have received from so many, including the Board of Trustees, and I am listening carefully and respectfully to those who want Penn to do better.”

In closing, Magill’s words were met with a standing ovation.

The Stated Meeting, led by Chair Scott L. Bok, was part of the two-day Board of Trustees gathering, which took place as Homecoming Weekend activities kicked off. The Meeting consisted of memorial resolutions for Robert I. Toll and A. Bruce Mainwaring, and reports spanning financials, student life, and more. Provost John L. Jackson Jr. reiterated Magill’s commitment to addressing this difficult moment, which, he said, “impacts students, faculty, staff, and alumni.”

“We’re addressing this moment on numerous fronts in conjunction with Penn Wellness, Public Safety, University Life, and the Chaplain’s Office,” Jackson said, before updating attendees on the Office of the Provost and other news related to academics at Penn.

Near the end of the Meeting, during the Nominating Committee Report, a Resolution of Appreciation and Designation as Trustee Emeritus took place for Perry Golkin, who holds an undergraduate and graduate degree from Wharton and a J.D. from Penn Law. He noted in his remarks that as a 17-year-old first-year student at Penn in 1970, during the Vietnam War, times were fraught then, too.

“My long view persuades me that Penn will successfully navigate through this difficult circumstance,” Golkin said. “A defining characteristic of a great institution is that as times change and events unfold, the institution learns, adjusts, and gets better.”

To read Magill’s remarks from the Stated Meeting of the Trustees in full, visit the Office of the President website.