November 1, 2023
To the Penn community,
I write today to announce Penn’s Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism, our dedicated commitment to counter this evil on our campus and beyond. I also want to update you on additional steps Penn is taking on the related challenges of other forms of hate.
Across the country and world, we are witnessing pernicious acts of antisemitism, including on college and university campuses. I am appalled by incidents on our own campus, and I’ve heard too many heartbreaking stories from those who are fearful for their safety right here at Penn. This is completely unacceptable. It wounds us at Penn even more acutely because of the history and vibrancy of Jewish life here. The engagement of Jewish faculty, students, staff, and alumni has been an important part of the success of Penn as a leading University. To see their sense of belonging shaken by hurt and fear—that is intolerable to me. It is also galvanizing.
During the past several weeks, I have been conferring closely with national and local Jewish leaders, as well as our faculty, students, staff, and alumni to construct a whole-University approach to combatting antisemitism at Penn. The Action Plan focuses on three critical areas – safety and security, engagement, and education – and is anchored in the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. I encourage you to read the full Action Plan by visiting this site: https://antisemitism-action-plan.upenn.edu/.
Among our immediate actions is the creation of a new University Task Force on Antisemitism. I have asked Mark Wolff, the Morton Amsterdam Dean of the School of Dental Medicine, to spearhead this group. I am grateful to Dean Wolff for his leadership. We will soon announce additional members of this task force. We will also complete a comprehensive safety and security review for Penn-affiliated religious life centers in and around campus.
At the same time, the interconnectedness of antisemitism and other forms of hate, including Islamophobia, also demands our attention and action. I know that our Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab communities feel unseen and that their pain and grief have not been acknowledged. They have also been targeted with harassment and horrific threats. This is unacceptable and must be addressed with equal vigor. I will soon convene and charge a Presidential Commission on these challenges, which will be chaired by Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering, and Katharine Strunk, Dean of the Graduate School of Education, and I will be in touch with updates.
I believe that in times of such pain and anger, our actions must be guided by our common values and Penn’s founding mission of creating knowledge, sharing it for good, and educating the next generation. We must bring our research, teaching, and service mission to bear on urgent challenges in the world. We must find and build common ground and be a community that sees, hears, and supports all its members. We must do this while advancing understanding aided by all the amazing resources at Penn. That is why the actions I share today will be well-integrated with our strategic planning for the University’s future. Penn’s senior leadership will also work with School and Center leaders to encourage and support these efforts.
This is an incredibly challenging moment in the world, and we are feeling its reverberations on our campus. We can and will do better to combat antisemitism and to reject hate in all its forms. The deep care and passion so many people have for this University is remarkable, and I share it. I believe keeping it close in mind will help us undertake everything we need to do in the coming weeks, months, and years. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as we move forward together.
M. Elizabeth Magill
Trustees University Professor and Professor of Law
University of Pennsylvania