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$100 Million Donation Withdrawn Over Antisemitism Controversy at UPenn

In a drastic turn of events, Ross Stevens, the founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, is withdrawing a substantial $100 million donation to the University of Pennsylvania. This decision serves as a protest against UPenn’s alleged mishandling of antisemitism on campus, coupled with the controversial testimony provided by UPenn’s President, Liz Magill.

Stevens, a major donor to UPenn since 2017, had originally contributed in the form of partnership units from his firm, Stone Ridge Asset Management. These units, now valued at approximately $100 million, were intended to assist the university in establishing a financial innovation center. However, Stevens’ attorneys contend that the university breached Stone Ridge’s limited partnership agreement by failing to adhere to anti-discrimination and anti-harassment rules.

In a letter sent to the university, Stevens and Stone Ridge expressed their dismay at UPenn’s alleged lenient approach to antisemitic incidents on campus. The letter accused the university of permitting hate speech and maintaining a laissez-faire attitude toward harassment and discrimination against Jewish students, actions deemed in violation of policies and rules prohibiting such behaviors, including those set by Stone Ridge.

The letter specifically criticized President Liz Magill’s recent testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee. Magill had stated that determining whether antisemitic chants and calls for genocide of Jewish people were prohibited speech on campus depended on the ‘context.’ Stevens and Stone Ridge took issue with this approach, asserting that Magill’s subsequent social media clarification acknowledged that such rhetoric would indeed violate Penn’s rules as harassment and discrimination.

President Magill, responding to the backlash, released a video on Wednesday, emphasizing that her testimony focused on university policies and constitutional protections of free speech. She clarified that a call for genocide of the Jewish people is threatening and should be considered harassment or intimidation. Magill expressed a commitment to evaluating and clarifying Penn’s campus policies to ensure a safe and supportive environment for the university community.

Stevens’ letter to UPenn conveyed a willingness to reconsider the withdrawal of his substantial donation under one condition: the replacement of President Liz Magill. This development adds a new layer of complexity to the ongoing conversation about how universities handle incidents of hate speech and discrimination, raising questions about the intersection of free speech, campus policies, and the responsibilities of university leaders in fostering a safe and inclusive environment.

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