A long-serving trustee at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) has resigned due to what he perceives as the institution’s tolerance of antisemitism. This resignation adds to the growing discontent among alumni and donors over anti-Israel sentiment on campus.
Vahan H. Gureghian, who became a member of the UPenn Board of Trustees in 2009, informed board Chairman Scott Bok of his immediate resignation, stating that he no longer believes the university is acting in the best interest of its students or the community.
In a letter shared with newsfeedworld, Gureghian expressed his disappointment, saying, “Just like many other elite academic institutions, the Penn community has been let down by its embrace of antisemitism, failure to stand for justice, and negligence in defending the well-being of our students.”
Gureghian, the founder and CEO of charter-school consulting group CSMI, stated that he waited until the board meeting to make his decision, hoping for a change of heart, but ultimately felt no reassurance. He urged the board to critically examine the direction the university is heading and reassess the values they are instilling in the students.
“I hold great hope for the future of the University of Pennsylvania, but for that hope to be realized, I believe you must commit to stop harboring haters,” Gureghian emphasized.
His resignation comes shortly after billionaire donor Marc Rowan announced his decision to cease donations and urged other UPenn alumni to do the same until Chairman Bok and President Liz Magill step down. Rowan claimed that the university’s leadership had allowed anti-Jewish hate to persist on campus.
Prominent alumni such as Dick Wolf, the producer of television’s “Law & Order” franchise, have also expressed their discontent, stating that the leadership has inadequately represented the university’s ideals and values.
This wave of criticism from alumni and donors followed the terrorist attack on Israeli civilians on October 7, which led to heightened pro-Israel sentiment. Responding to Gureghian’s resignation, Chairman Bok emphasized the university’s condemnation of terrorist attacks by Hamas and reiterated their rejection of antisemitism in any form.
Tensions at UPenn had already been high due to the Palestine Writes Literature Festival held last month, which featured speakers who had previously called for the destruction of Israel. Gureghian found it abhorrent that the university supported an event where violent efforts to defeat Zionism were condoned.
While over 2,000 alumni and university supporters signed a letter expressing concerns about the festival, 36 faculty members defended the event, stating that it should not be singled out for criticism.
In his statement, Marc Rowan accused President Magill and Chairman Bok of attempting to suppress dissent by organizing attacks on him and other Jewish trustees. However, Bok denied these allegations.
The resignation of Trustee Gureghian and the backlash from alumni and donors highlight the ongoing dispute over antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment at the University of Pennsylvania.