The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) faces a significant financial setback as Ross Stevens, founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, withdrew a substantial donation due to concerns over the university’s handling of antisemitism on campus.
Stevens, through his lawyers, informed UPenn’s Senior Vice President Wendy White on Dec. 7 that his firm would “retire” donation units worth approximately $100 million, originally intended to fund the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance at UPenn.
The letter highlighted the dissatisfaction with UPenn’s approach to antisemitism, stating, “Mr. Stevens and Stone Ridge are appalled by the University’s stance on anti-Semitism on campus.”
The letter further criticized the university for its “permissive approach to hate speech calling for violence against Jews” and its passive attitude towards discrimination against Jewish students.
The letter emphasized, “Its permissive approach to hate speech calling for violence against Jews and laissez-faire attitude toward harassment and discrimination against Jewish students would violate any policies or rules that prohibit harassment and discrimination based on religion, including those of Stone Ridge.”
This withdrawal was partly influenced by UPenn President Liz Magill’s testimony on campus antisemitism, which faced significant backlash.
The letter mentioned President Magill’s post-testimony acknowledgment of the gravity of calling for the genocide of Jewish people.
It stated, “President Magill’s Dec. 6, 2023 post on X admitted as much when she belatedly acknowledged—belatedly acknowledged—only after her Congressional testimony went viral and demands for her termination amplified—that calls or genocide of the Jewish people constitute harassment and discrimination.”
Stone Ridge set Magill’s resignation as a precondition for future discussion about its donations.
The letter noted, “Until then, there can be no meaningful discussion about remedying the University’s ongoing failure to honor its obligations.”
UPenn’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel has led other donors, like venture capitalist David Magerman, private equity billionaire Marc Rowan, and hedge fund billionaire Cliff Asness, to cease their contributions.
Former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman has also vowed to stop donating.
During a Congressional hearing titled “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Anti-Semitism,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) challenged Magill on UPenn’s stance on antisemitism.
Magill responded, “It is a context-dependent decision,” leading to a heated exchange. Stefanik pressed further, asking, “So, it’s your testimony that you will not answer ‘yes’?” Magill clarified, “If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment. Yes.”
Following the backlash, Magill posted a video clarifying her stance, stating, “In that moment, I was focused on our university’s long-standing policies, aligned with the U.S. Constitution, which says that speech alone is not punishable.”
She admitted, “A call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It’s evil, plain and simple,” and admitted, “In my view, it would be harassment or intimidation.”
Magill called for a review of UPenn’s policies in light of the increasing hate across campus and globally.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro criticized Magill’s response as “unacceptable,” stating leaders must act with “moral clarity.” Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) echoed these sentiments, calling for Magill’s dismissal.
Furthermore, an online petition for Magill’s resignation garnered over 20,000 signatures. The UPenn Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting, the details of which remain undisclosed.
The House Education and Workforce Committee, chaired by Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), has initiated an investigation into Harvard, MIT, and UPenn regarding their handling of similar issues.