The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is facing backlash and potential financial repercussions after allowing speakers with histories of “outright antisemitism” to participate in the controversial “Palestine Writes Literature Festival” on campus. This decision has prompted billionaire philanthropist Ron Lauder, heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics empire and a major donor to UPenn, to reevaluate his financial support for the institution.
Lauder expressed his disappointment in a letter to UPenn President Liz Magill, stating that the event had caused irreparable damage to the university’s reputation. He criticized the timing of the festival, which coincided with terrorist attacks launched by Hamas on Israel. Lauder emphasized that he does not want the students at The Lauder Institute, which was funded by his family, to be taught by any of the instructors involved or supported the event.
UPenn’s decision to host the festival has garnered criticism from various Jewish groups, alumni, trustees, and current students. They raised concerns regarding the event’s lineup of speakers who have repeatedly called for “death to Israel” and referred to the Jewish state as a “tumor.” The controversy has led other donors, including former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, to withdraw their financial support from the university.
In response to Lauder’s letter, UPenn President Magill issued a statement affirming the university’s commitment to combating antisemitism and supporting the safety and security of their community. While she acknowledged the need for improved communication, Magill made it clear that UPenn stands by its belief in the free exchange of ideas while rejecting hate in all its forms.
The repercussions of hosting the “Palestine Writes Literature Festival” have highlighted the delicate balance universities face in promoting academic freedom and safety. This controversy serves as a reminder of the ongoing tensions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the importance of fostering respectful dialogue on college campuses.
Why is Ron Lauder reevaluating his financial support for UPenn?
Lauder is reevaluating his support because UPenn allowed people with histories of “outright antisemitism” to speak at the “Palestine Writes Literature Festival,” which he believes has tarnished the university’s reputation.
What concerns have been raised about the festival’s speakers?
The lineup of speakers at the festival included individuals who have repeatedly called for “death to Israel” and referred to the Jewish state as a “tumor.” This has raised concerns about antisemitism and hate speech.
Have other donors withdrawn their support from UPenn?
Yes, several donors, including former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, have withdrawn their financial support from the university in response to the controversy surrounding the festival.
How has UPenn responded to the criticism?
UPenn President Liz Magill has issued a statement affirming the university’s commitment to combatting antisemitism and supporting the safety and security of the community. She acknowledged the need for improved communication but reiterated UPenn’s belief in the free exchange of ideas while rejecting hate in all its forms.