University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill was under pressure during a House antisemitism hearing on Tuesday, as Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., noted that a Penn professor who called for “intifada” against Israel kept his job at the prestigious institution and other antisemitic speakers have been allowed to have events on campus. 

Banks, in turn, noted how former President Trump’s director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, was prevented from speaking on campus amid anti-Trump student protests, as was India’s now-Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amy Wax, a tenured law professor who opposes the diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, agenda. 

“Just weeks before the Oct. 7 terror attacks against Israel, Penn hosted a Palestine Writes Literature Festival,” Banks said. “The event featured Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired by CNN for calling for the destruction of Israel. It also hosted and included a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement, which has collaborated with the terrorists and maybe most notably, Roger Waters, the really wacky former Pink Floyd vocalist. The same Roger Waters, by the way, who’s publicly used anti-Jewish slurs, desecrated the memory of Anne Frank and has dressed up as a Nazi and floated a pig balloon with a star of David – at many of his concerts. Why in the world would you host someone like that on your college campus to speak at the so-called Palestinian Rights Literature Festival?” 

“I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this. Antisemitism has no place at Penn,” Magill began, before Banks interjected. 

“Why did you invite Roger Waters? What did you think you would get out of him?” Banks said. 


“Antisemitism has no place at Penn, and our free speech policies are guided by the United States Constitution,” she said. 

But Banks pressed specifically, “Why did you invite Roger Waters?” asking Magill, “Do you condemn what Roger Waters stands for?” 

The Penn president claimed that before the event, she issued a “statement calling out the antisemitism of some of the speakers at that conference.” 

“Specifically Roger Waters? Yes or no?” Banks asked. To that, the university president fell silent for a few seconds, adding, “Roger Waters is among them.” 

“So you specifically called out a guy who floated pig balloons with a star of David at his concerts?” Banks responded. “I haven’t seen the condemnation. And I’m going to go look for it after this hearing. And I hope, I hope can find that well-recorded condemnation from you.”

Clarifying, Magill said, “I did call out the antisemitism of some of the speakers at a conference that had more than 100 people.” 

In the aftermath of the Palestine Writes Festival, Banks noted how Magill and her Penn board chairman wrote a memo outlining the university’s free speech policies. In that memo, Magill wrote, “Penn does not regulate the content of speech or symbolic behavior,” including speech “incompatible with the school’s values.” The university president went on to say Penn does not have a policy against hate speech because “defining and policing robust debate, even with respect to the most disturbing issues, is unwise.”


“That’s what you wrote,” Banks said. “But in 2013, Penn canceled now-Prime Minister Modi’s scheduled keynote address at a Wharton-hosted economic forum in the face of opposition from Indian-American professors. And for the past year, your administration has sought to punish Amy Wax, a tenured law professor, for her stance on DEI and identity issues. And then you canceled an event with former ICE Director Tom Homan due to disruptive student protests simply because he worked for former President Donald Trump.” 

“The fact is that Penn regulates speech that it doesn’t like,” Banks charged. “Everyone gets this, no one more so than the faculty and students who know exactly where the lines are that they’re OK to cross,” Banks surmised, asking Magill, “Why did Penn let Professor Ahmad Almallah off the hook, who led hundreds of students in chanting ‘There’s only one solution, intifada revolution?’ Why does that, professor, still have a job at your university?”

In response, Magill said, “Our approach to speech is as identified. It follows and is guided by the United States Constitution, which allows for robust perspectives. I disagree with the characterization that we treat speech differently and I can’t discuss any individual disciplinary process.” 

Banks went on to call out Penn professor Anne Norton, who he said, “repeatedly denied Hamas’ worst atrocities on Oct. 7” and professor Huda Fakhreddine, who Banks said “romanticized the murder of over a thousand Israeli Jews as, quote, ‘Palestine inventing a new way of life’ and clapped as a speaker said Jews should go back to Berlin and Moscow.”

“Why does that professor still have a job at your university?” Banks demanded. Magill said she was “very troubled” by what he was describing. 

“You’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You’re defending it. You allow these professors to teach at your college,” Banks said. “You create a safe haven for this type of antisemitic behavior. You said something earlier about antisemitism being symbolic of the larger society. Your university is a hotbed of it. And one of the reasons that we’re seeing a rise of antisemitism… is an unsafe environment for Jewish college students all over this country. You’re largely responsible for it.” 

The House GOP Conference gave an opportunity for several Jewish students at Penn, Harvard and MIT to speak Tuesday before the hearing began. 

A senior at Penn, Eyal Yakoby, outlined an incident on campus he said happened less than 36 hours earlier.

“I should not be here today. I should be studying for my upcoming finals. I should be taking in every moment, every experience as an undergraduate student in my senior year of college. So while I should not be here today, I am, because 36 hours ago, I, along with most of campus, sought refuge in our rooms as classmates and professors chanted proudly for the genocide of Jews while igniting smoke bombs and defacing school property,” Yakoby said. 

“The neighboring university’s president immediately released a statement describing this as a ‘brazen display of antisemitism.’ He went on saying, ‘Silence in the face of last night’s demonstration of antisemitism and hate near our doorstep is not an option for me.’ Well, the doorstep of the neighboring university is in fact Penn. And in fact, Penn’s president did choose silence. The neighboring university’s president swiftly denounced the incident, and yet our president could not because the ‘glorious Oct. 7′ and ‘You’re a dirty little Jew, you deserve to die,’ are words said not by Hamas but by my classmates and professors. And because despite all of this, I am adamant and hopeful that we will not accept, least of all embrace, this horrific new normal on college campuses today.”