University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigns

By Matt Egan, CNN

Updated 7:15 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023
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7:10 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023

"A dreadful 30-second sound bite," Bok says, referring to Magill's House testimony

From CNN's Matt Egan

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill testifies during a House Education and Workforce Committee Hearing on December 5 in Washington, DC.
University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill testifies during a House Education and Workforce Committee Hearing on December 5 in Washington, DC. Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP

In his statement, Scott Bok acknowledged that the university president erred during her disastrous testimony, describing a “dreadful 30-second sound bite” following a lengthy hearing.

“Former President Liz Magill last week made a very unfortunate misstep—consistent with that of two peer university leaders sitting alongside her—after five hours of aggressive questioning before a Congressional committee,” said the outgoing chairman of the board of trustees at the University of Pennsylvania. “Following that, it became clear that her position was no longer tenable, and she and I concurrently decided that it was time for her to exit.”

Bok said he wishes Magill “well in her future endeavors” and praised her as a “good person and a talented leader who was beloved by her team.” 

“She is not the slightest bit antisemitic. Working with her was one of the great pleasures of my life. Worn down by months of relentless external attacks, she was not herself last Tuesday,” Bok said. “Over prepared and over lawyered given the hostile forum and high stakes, she provided a legalistic answer to a moral question, and that was wrong.”

7:04 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023

"University leaders have an elevated duty," says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale School of Management

From CNN's Matt Egan

In response to Magill’s resignation, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, said in a statement that Magill and her peers on Tuesday were underprepared before the House committee.

“University leaders have an elevated duty to fortify the truth and protect their campus communities from hate, threats, and violence. Freedom of expression is NOT an absolute right anywhere in society. Hate speech is different from speech,” he said. “These college leaders were over lawyered but still underprepared and show an absence of judgment.”

7:06 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023

Scott Bok resigns as chair of UPenn’s board of trustees effective immediately

From CNN's Matt Egan

Scott Bok, chairman of the board of trustees at the University of Pennsylvania, submitted his resignation effective immediately.

In a statement, Bok said: "Today, following the resignation of the University of Pennsylvania’s President and related Board of Trustee meetings, I submitted my resignation as Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, effective immediately. While I was asked to remain in that role for the remainder of my term in order to help with the presidential transition, I concluded that, for me, now was the right time to depart."


7:07 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023

Former UPenn trustee calls for Chair Scott Bok to resign next

From CNN's Matt Egan

Former University of Pennsylvania trustee Vahan Gureghian told CNN that Scott Bok, chair of the embattled school’s board of trustees, needs to follow in Liz Magill’s footsteps by stepping down next.

“It was time for President Magill to resign,” Gureghian said in a statement Saturday evening minutes after UPenn announced that Magill tendered her resignation. 

Gureghian, a charter-school magnate who quit the board in protest of the university’s handling of antisemitism, said the opportunity to demonstrate leadership was two months ago. 

“The responsibility for the University’s future direction, where the buck stops, is set at the Board level. Transformation of this broken institution requires Scott Bok to resign,” Gureghian told CNN. 




7:08 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023

Magill had been under pressure for weeks

From CNN's Matt Egan

Although the House hearing was the catalyst for Liz Magill’s resignation, the Penn president had been under immense pressure from some wealthy donors for weeks amid a heated debate over free speech and antisemitism that escalated following the Hamas terror attacks against Israel. 

Wealthy donors pulled their support for the Ivy League school and vowed to keep their checkbooks closed until Magill stepped down. 

The donor backlash was triggered by a Palestinian literature festival hosted on campus in September. 

To the dismay of some alumni and support of others, Magill allowed the Palestine Writes Literature Festival to go forward even as she acknowledged it would feature some speakers with a history of making antisemitic remarks. 

Donor resentment about the event escalated rapidly after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.  A week after the attacks, Magill further distanced the university from the festival and acknowledged it should have more forcefully and quickly condemned the speakers’ statements. 

7:08 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023

Magill's presidency lasted barely a year

From CNN's Matt Egan

Magill’s presidency lasted barely a year, crumbling amid a firestorm of criticism that hit a crescendo after a disastrous hearing before US lawmakers.  

Wealthy donors, CEOs, lawmakers and even Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro condemned Magill’s testimony on Tuesday in Congress where she struggled to say whether calls for genocide against Jews would violate the school’s code of conduct on bullying or harassment. 

Magill attempted to clarify her widely criticized response, but the damage was done.  

7:09 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023

Magill to stay on as interim president

From CNN's Matt Egan

Students walk on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia on December 8.
Students walk on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia on December 8. Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Magill will stay on as interim president until a new interim leader is appointed. Penn did not have a succession plan in place despite a flood of calls for Magill’s resignation this week, a source told CNN.

7:09 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023

Magill: "It has been an honor"

From CNN's Matt Egan

“It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution,” Magill said in a statement. “It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s vital missions.”

Magill will remain on Penn’s faculty as a tenured professor at Penn Carey Law School.

“On behalf of the entire Penn community, I want to thank President Magill for her service to the University as President and wish her well,” board chair Scott Bok said in a statement.

7:09 p.m. ET, December 9, 2023

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigns

From CNN's Matt Egan

Liz Magill, the president of University of Pennsylvania, voluntarily stepped down from the helm of the Ivy League school on Saturday, according to an announcement from board chair Scott Bok.