To the Editor:
I read your article about the sad debate between the parties who are protesting antisemitism at three of the world ‘s best universities (“House Committee Will Investigate Harvard, Penn, and MIT After Presidents Testified on Antisemitism,” The Chronicle, December 7).
It’s sad that the now former president of Penn, M. Elizabeth Magill, was hounded from her post by knee-jerk piling on by many people when she didn’t reflexively condemn antisemitism exposed again in the October 7th attack by Hamas terrorists.
All educated and reasonable people condemn antisemitism as easily as they breathe. The web gives most anyone a platform to argue, insult, and disparage whomever gets in their crosshairs with little worry that being respectful and courteous to each other used to be both common and expected in the U.S. Where public discourse stands in 2023 is a sad statement about the nation.
I worked in academia for 22 years as a fundraiser. People who maintain and strengthen institutions of higher learning are special and generous. Being well-educated as well, they know that antisemitism is evil. There have never been two acceptable opinions about this before and there aren’t now.
Given her magnificent resume and academic achievements, Ms. Magill is surely on the correct side here. That the (also now former) chair of Penn’s Board Mr. Bok piled on makes one wonder why he didn’t defend Ms. Magill. Presidents of major universities have a 24/7/365 job that is often thankless. Ms. Magill was hung out to dry by the very people on whom she should have been able to count for support, and that’s wrong.
Given the speed of information exchange now, this issue is already disappearing from the center ring. This is wrong as well. The Jewish community has historic and profound reasons to feel persecuted, but some folks would benefit from remembering that there are many good people like Ms. Magill who are kind and intelligent and sympathetic to both their feelings and concerns.
Paul T Levinson