Penn Under Further Scrutiny by Federal Government

As reported in the March 21, 2024, issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian:

In an article written by Jasmine Ni for The Daily Pennsylvanian (DP), the United States House Committee on Ways and Means (Committee) has sent another letter to the Penn administration seeking further information on antisemitic activity at Penn. If Penn does not present sufficient evidence that antisemitism has been effectively addressed on campus, Penn’s current tax-exempt status is at risk.

The letter, written by Committee Chair Jason Smith (Smith) (R-Mo.), states, “The focus of the Committee’s inquiry and questions is to understand what universities like yours are doing, if anything, to change course drastically and address what has gone unaddressed for years.”

The article says the Committee wants to know “In addition to information about disciplinary actions taken against individuals and organizations on campus, the letter demands each university explain why they believe antisemitism has been able to ‘flourish’ on their campuses, furnish any drafts or final versions of statements concerning unprotected speech or violence, and disclose any donations or funding received from foreign sovereignties or governments.” Apparently, the Committee has determined that there is antisemitism on Penn’s campus as the letter states that a “pervasive culture has created a hostile environment for Jews on campus…antisemitism appears to be rampant at Penn.”

Journalist Ni mentions that “The letter cites multiple incidents, including a January die-in organized on the steps of College Hall by Penn Faculty for Justice in Palestine and the Houston Hall sit-in hosted by Freedom School for Palestine, as well as the lack of disciplinary action from the University in response to the political cartoons of Annenberg School for Communication lecturer and cartoonist Dwayne Booth.” It also expresses a dissatisfaction for Penn by Smith who wrote “It is troubling to me that it’s not just students disrupting the University’s educational purpose, now a group of faculty and staff are participating in these efforts as well.”

Penn Responds to Pressure to Remove Antisemitism on Campus

As reported in The Daily Pennsylvanian:

According to an article written by Vivi Sankar for the March 21, 2024, issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian (DP), “The University has opened an investigation into Penn Students Against the   Occupation of Palestine (PAO), prohibiting the group from organizing events in Penn-affiliated spaces until the probe has concluded.”

The investigation is being conducted by Penn’s Center for Community Standards and Accountability (CSA). CSA handles alleged violations of Penn’s Code of Academic Integrity and the Code of Student Conduct.

There is no mention of any particular students, faculty, or staff being investigated or the names of any other Penn groups or organizations that may have been responsible for the many antisemitic activities and incidents on campus.   

Donations to the Penn Fund Have Decreased

As reported in The Daily Pennsylvanian:

In an article in the April 10, 2024, edition of The Daily Pennsylvanian (DP), journalist Max Annunziata reports, “The Daily Pennsylvanian found that Penn was closer to meeting the fundraising goals outlined on The Penn Fund website at this time last year, and as of April 3, donations were down 21% compared to last year. The University has until the end of the fiscal year on June 30 to meet its fundraising goals for the Penn Fund.”

When questioning fundraising experts, the DP received opinions “That a crisis is affecting the fundraising” and that the loss of donations is a “setback.”

One expert suggests Penn should take active steps to encourage donations. Apparently, the drop in donations has already encouraged Penn to host a “donor appreciation event.” Another expert suggested that Penn would be better advised to have students fundraise by utilizing telephone calls. Penn has already asked students to handwrite “thank you” notes to alumni donors.

The DP goes on to say, “The Penn Fund is the University’s annual giving program, of which undergraduate students are the sole beneficiaries. The fundraising program supports grant-based financial aid packages, academic programs, and student clubs and organizations.” If this statement is accurate, any donation in support of the Penn Fund could have been used to fund the antisemitic activities of Penn’s “student clubs and organizations.”

Encampment of Protestors on Penn’s Campus is Removed

In a message sent to Penn alumni on May 10, 2024, the Penn administration sent this message:

“To the Penn Community:

We have worked with serious intention for nearly two weeks to engage the protestors on College Green, who were notified on April 26th – the second day of the encampment – that they were in violation of Penn’s policies. This outreach has been met by unreasonable demands and a dangerous escalation of the encampment.

Our community has been under threat and our campus disrupted for too long. Passion for a cause cannot supersede the safety and operations of our University. Early this morning, we took action, with support from local law enforcement, to remove the encampment. We would like to express our gratitude to the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Police Department for their support. This is an unfortunate but necessary step to prevent violence, restore operations, and return our campus to our community.

Under these extraordinary circumstances, and to provide for the safety of our community, access to the College Green area of campus will be restricted until further notice. Those wishing to enter the area will be required to show a valid PennCard. Those without proper identification will be asked to leave and, if necessary, will be escorted off campus, or considered trespassing.

The protestors refused repeatedly to disband the encampment, to produce identification, to stop threatening, loud, and discriminatory speech and behavior, and to comply with instructions from Penn administrators and Public Safety. Instead, they called for others to join them in escalating their disruptions and expanding their encampment, necessitating that we take action to protect the safety and rights of everyone in our community. We could not allow further disruption of our academic mission. We could not allow students to be prevented from accessing study spaces and resources, attending final exams, or participating in Commencement ceremonies, which for many did not happen during the pandemic.

University leaders met with representatives of the encampment on multiple occasions, for extended periods of time. We hoped that reasonable conversations could address both the concerns of protestors and the needs of the University. We made clear that their proposals were not possible, including their demands that participating students and faculty receive amnesty without proceeding through our due process for conduct and for divestment from entities engaged with Israel. Penn remains unequivocally opposed to divestment, and it is unlawful for institutions receiving funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

We also made clear that the encampment needed to disband and offered ways in which the protestors could continue their demonstration in compliance with our policies. We proposed, and still hope to deploy, Penn’s academic resources to support rebuilding and scholarly programs in Gaza, Israel, and other areas of the Middle East. Despite diligent efforts to find a path forward, the gap between the positions of many in the encampment and the University proved too wide to bridge in this volatile environment, while the risks to our community and our missions continued to increase.

This decision is viewpoint neutral and affirmed by our policies. There are times when our abiding commitment to open expression requires balancing free speech with our responsibility to safety, security, and continuing the operations of the University. This is one of those times and why we have acted. Open expression and peaceful protest are welcome on our campus, but vandalism, trespassing, disruption, and threatening language and actions are not.


J. Larry Jameson, MD, Ph.D.
Interim President

John L. Jackson, Jr.

Craig R. Carnaroli
Senior Executive Vice President”