In a recent development at the University of Pennsylvania, a significant financial donor withdrew a $100 million gift in response to what he perceived as the university’s inadequate handling of antisemitism on campus. The decision by Ross Stevens, founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management and a Penn alum, followed a congressional testimony by the university’s president, Liz Magill, which was criticized for its handling of questions related to antisemitism.
During a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) questioned Magill, along with Harvard University President Claudine Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth, about whether calls for Jewish genocide constituted harassment. The responses from all three university presidents suggested a need to consider the context of such statements, a stance that has sparked controversy and criticism.
Stevens, in his decision to retract the donation initially intended for a center for innovation in finance, cited the university’s violation of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies in his letter through his lawyers. He specifically referred to the university’s approach to hate speech and its impact on Jewish students, indicating a failure to uphold the values stipulated in the partnership agreement with Stone Ridge.
This incident highlights the ongoing debate about free speech and its limits, especially in academic institutions, and the complexities of addressing hate speech and discrimination on campus. The withdrawal of such a substantial donation signals the potential financial implications for universities when handling sensitive issues like antisemitism and free speech.