Open Letter to Penn President Liz Magill

President Magill,

I got your email about the Israel/Palestine situation on Sunday. I’d like to quote in full your second and third paragraphs.

“I want to leave no doubt about where I stand. I, and this University, are horrified by and condemn Hamas’s terrorist assault on Israel and their violent atrocities against civilians. There is no justification—none—for these heinous attacks, which have consumed the region and are inciting violence in other parts of the world.

I am heartbroken by the suffering of families and communities being ripped apart. Hostages are in peril. Thousands of lives have been taken, each a world lost. The war will take many more, with no end in sight.”

First, let me say that I agree completely with your condemnation of Hamas and their violent atrocities against civilians.

But one of the things that was stressed during my time as an English major at Penn was critical reading, and so I can’t help noticing what you’re not saying here. It’s especially striking as, by the time you emailed, the Hamas attacks were largely over, and the Israeli government was busy killing civilians in Gaza.

But those deaths don’t, apparently, merit your horror.

Now, I’m class of 1990. I’m way too old and experienced to expect institutions to have consciences. But institutions are made up of individuals. I would hope that the events of the past week might cause some introspection on your part. Whatever political calculations went into the crafting of your email, you are a human being who apparently felt that “it is bad to kill people” was too controversial a statement for you to make publicly.

When future Penn historians study this time, they will see that your carefully worded email effectively co-signs the Israeli government’s Taylor Swift excuse for committing genocide: “Look what you made me do.” Are you comfortable with this?

I have been thinking for months that Penn should perhaps do some soul searching around the fact that both Donald Trump and Elon Musk are alumni. Obviously the university did not create these monsters. But it did attract them. What is it about the University of Pennsylvania that makes people with stunted moral development want to go there? Do you know? Do you care? Is it something you wish to fix?

I’ve unsubscribed from all Penn emails. I think I gave fifty bucks once, so I’m obviously not a big enough donor to make my opinion matter to Penn. But I just wanted you to know that as a person who thinks it’s bad to kill people, I’m not just disappointed in your email. I’m disgusted.