Penn could lose a $100 million donation after its president's bungled congressional hearing

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Penn could lose a $100 million donation after its president's bungled congressional hearing
Liz Magill.Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
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Asset manager Ross Stevens threatened to withdraw a donation to the University of Pennsylvania worth roughly $100 million.

Stevens' threat comes after the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT appeared before Congress this week to testify about antisemitism on campus. They came under fire after they evaded questions on whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their institutions' codes of conduct.

In response to those questions, Penn President Elizabeth Magill said: "If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment."

The school's board of trustees held an emergency meeting Thursday as criticism mounted against her testimony, CNN reported.

In 2017, Stevens, the founder and CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, donated limited partnership units in his fund to Penn in order for the school to establish a center for innovation in finance. The donation is now worth about $100 million, according to a letter from Stevens' lawyers to Penn.

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"Mr. Stevens and Stone Ridge are appalled by the University's stance on antisemitism on campus," reads the letter, which Insider obtained a copy of. "Its permissive approach to hate speech calling for violence against Jews and laissez faire attitude toward harassment and discrimination against Jewish students would violate any policies of rules that prohibit harassment and discrimination based on religion, including those of Stone Ridge."

The threat to withdraw the donation marks an escalation of the backlash elite universities are facing following growing instances of antisemitism on campus. A number of wealthy donors had previously halted giving to colleges due to university reactions to the October 7 attacks on Israel, the war in Gaza, and antisemitism on campuses.

Stevens wrote a letter Thursday to Stone Ridge Asset Management staff explaining his decision.

"I have clear grounds to rescind Penn's $100 million of Stone Ridge shares due to the conduct of President Magill," he wrote, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by BI. "Absent a change in leadership and values at Penn in the very near future, I plan to rescind Penn's Stone Ridge shares to prevent any further reputational and other damage to Stone Ridge as a result of our relationship with Penn and Liz Magill. I love Penn and it is important to me, but our firm's principles are more important."

As the uproar mounted against Magill and Penn this week, Magill released a video explaining her testimony.

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"In that moment, I was focused on our university's longstanding policies aligned with the US Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable," Magill said in the video. "I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It's evil — plain and simple."

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