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US university head quits after anti-Semitism testimony

Staff WritersAP
Calls for Liz Magill's resignation exploded after her testimony about anti-Semitism on campus. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconCalls for Liz Magill's resignation exploded after her testimony about anti-Semitism on campus. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

The University of Pennsylvania's president has resigned amid pressure over congressional testimony in which she was unable to say under repeated questioning that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate the school's conduct policy.

The departure of Liz Magill, in her second year as president of the Ivy League school, was announced by the school late on Saturday afternoon.

The statement said Magill would remain a tenured faculty member at the university's Carey Law School.

Calls for her resignation exploded after Tuesday's testimony in a US House committee on anti-Semitism on college campuses, where she appeared with the presidents of Harvard University and MIT.

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Blowback focused on a line of questioning from representative Elise Stefanik, who repeatedly asked whether "calling for the genocide of Jews" would violate Penn's code of conduct.

"If the speech turns into conduct it can be harassment, yes," Magill said.

Pressed further, Magill told Stefanik, "It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman."

Criticism rained down from the White House, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, members of Congress and donors.

One donor, Ross Stevens, threatened to withdraw a $US100 million ($A152 million) gift because of the university's "stance on anti-Semitism on campus" unless Magill was replaced.

A day later, Magill addressed the criticism, saying in a video that she would consider a call for the genocide of Jewish people to be harassment or intimidation and that Penn's policies need to be "clarified and evaluated".

Magill had been under fire from some donors and alumni this fall over the university's handling of various perceived acts of anti-Semitism.

Earlier on Saturday, New York's governor called on the state's colleges and universities to swiftly address cases of anti-Semitism and what she described as any "calls for genocide" on campus.

In a letter to college and university presidents, Governor Kathy Hochul said her administration would enforce violations of the state's human rights laws and refer any violations of federal civil rights law to US officials.

A popular chant at pro-Palestinian rallies at Penn and other universities has been falsely misrepresented in recent months as claiming to call for "Jewish genocide".

Experts and advocates say the chant, "Israel, we charge you with genocide", is a typical refrain heard at pro-Palestinian rallies.

Jewish and Palestinian supporters both acknowledge protesters are not saying "We want Jewish genocide".

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