The University of Pennsylvania has two weeks to turn over documents, emails and other communications to a House committee regarding how it has responded to antisemitic incidents since January 2021, the university’s plan to combat antisemitism and its efforts to recruit and retain Jewish students.
Representative Virginia Foxx, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, sent the document request, which includes 24 different items, as part of the panel’s ongoing investigations of antisemitism at Penn and other universities. Harvard University received a similar request earlier this month and turned over documents this week.
Foxx called Harvard’s initial response “woefully inadequate” and threatened “compulsory measures” such as a subpoena. A Harvard spokesman defended the university’s response in a statement to The Boston Globe and said the university will continue to cooperate with the committee.
The 14-page letter to Penn detailed a number of “deeply troubling incidents and developments” over the last few months. Those include incidents of antisemitic vandalism and harassment, as well as the university’s decision to host the Palestine Writes Literature Festival in late September, which featured several speakers who have made antisemitic comments. The letter also includes statements from Penn faculty in support of the people of Palestine or critical of Israel.
Penn’s president was one of three university leaders called to testify before the committee in early December about their responses to campus antisemitism. Liz Magill, then the president, resigned shortly afterward.
“In defense of this disgraceful record, Penn has cited its supposed commitment to free speech,” Foxx wrote. “In former President Magill’s words, Penn claims that it is ‘guided by the United States Constitution,’ which limits it from taking action against antisemitism on its campus. However, Penn has demonstrated a clear double standard by tolerating antisemitic vandalism, harassment, and intimidation, but suppressing and penalizing other expression it deemed problematic.”
Among other examples, Foxx pointed to a university administrator’s decision to call for a sanction against Amy Wax, a law professor at Penn who has faced calls for her removal for racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic remarks.
The committee also asked for documents relating to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel; products from Penn’s diversity, equity and inclusion offices about Jewish students or antisemitism; and donations and funding from Qatari sources, among other requests. Penn has until Feb. 7 to respond.