September 22, 2023
Dear members of the Penn community,
As many of you are aware, Penn Police responded yesterday to reports of an individual shouting antisemitic obscenities and overturning furniture at Penn Hillel. The individual was determined to be in crisis and was quickly and safely removed and referred for medical evaluation. This troubling incident came in the wake of another upsetting occurrence at the Weitzman School of Design, where a group of students found a swastika painted on the wall of a spray booth, a small room that is used for painting projects, on the fourth floor of Meyerson Hall. Dean Frederick Steiner wrote to the Weitzman community immediately after learning of the incident. The image was also quickly removed. Penn Police is actively investigating this incident and encourages anyone who may have information to please contact the Division of Public Safety at 215-573-3333.
We unequivocally condemn such hateful acts. They are an assault on our values and mission as an institution and have no place at Penn. Sadly, incidents of hatred, including antisemitic rhetoric and acts that denigrate Jewish people, have become all too common. That these incidents happened on our campus, in our spaces, is deeply unsettling. We also acknowledge the timing of these incidents is particularly difficult given the controversial speakers who will be participating in the event on our campus over the coming days. It is our collective responsibility as a community to stand clearly and strongly against antisemitism.
We are unwavering in our commitment to ensuring our Jewish community feels safe and supported on our campus. The Division of Public Safety is actively pursuing both incidents and following all protocols for potential bias incidents on campus. They are also continuing to provide increased security coverage and support to Penn Hillel, conducting special checks at Lubavitch House, and working to determine appropriate security measures for Jewish students living in on- and off-campus housing.
We are also in active conversations with campus- and community-based organizations (an example is here) including Penn Hillel and the Office of the University Chaplain, and consulting the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism to guide our efforts to combat antisemitism on our campus broadly. Here are a few actions that are already underway:
Training and education: We are reviewing and building upon our existing training and education programs to ensure we are including antisemitism awareness as part of our equity and inclusion programs for faculty, staff, and students.
Community connection: We are redoubling our work with student organizations and other groups to encourage efforts to understand the interconnectedness of different forms of bigotry and oppression. We will continue working with the Office of the University Chaplain and the Division of University Life to bring people together to learn from and with one another.
The University of Pennsylvania has a long and proud history of being a place for people from all backgrounds. Hateful acts like this sow fear and anxiety, and many members of our community are hurting right now. Please check in with your friends and colleagues and let them know that they are not alone. Offer your support. It is our collective responsibility to foster a campus environment where all members can thrive and succeed. We must set about this work with renewed focus and urgency as a community.
Liz Magill, President
John L. Jackson, Jr., Provost
Craig Carnaroli, Senior Executive Vice President
Joann Mitchell, Senior Vice President for Institutional Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer
Rev. Chaz Howard, University Chaplain and Vice President for Social Equity & Community
Karu Kozuma, Vice Provost for University Life