update deskSchools & Higher Education

Penn pressures trustees to resign after criticizing ‘Palestine Writes,’ Apollo Global CEO claims

Marc Rowan urges fellow alumni to halt donations to the university for being a “bastion of preferred speech.”

The University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia. Credit: SINITAR/Shutterstock.
The University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia. Credit: SINITAR/Shutterstock.

Apollo Global CEO Marc Rowan urges alumni of the University of Pennsylvania to halt all donations until its president, Liz Magill, and board of trustees chair, Scott Bok, resign.

Rowan wrote an op-ed to Penn’s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian (it has not been published) criticizing Magill and Bok over their decision to allow the “Palestine Writes” literary festival to take place the last week of September. during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

“This is not at the end of the day about free speech,” Rowan said today on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” saying that this was about the inability of the university’s leadership to condemn antisemitism while allowing the program to proceed. At the last minute, Pink Floyd frontman and notorious antisemite Roger Waters was not allowed on campus to speak.

Rowan criticized Magill for “not being capable of exercising moral leadership” due to academic peer pressure. Magill and Bok have also asked trustees and board members to resign for “exercising their free speech” as part of signing an open letter criticizing Penn for holding the event, he claims.

“There are three trustees and one chairman—in my instance—who are being asked to step off the board. All of whom signed this open letter disagreeing with what the university is doing. And all four of us Jewish,” Rowan said.

He slammed Penn for not protecting freedom of speech but being “a bastion of preferred speech.”

“Imagine in the wake of George Floyd, a group of professors getting together and deciding that this would be a good night to hold a white nationalist rally. My guess is the university would have found its voice,” he said. It just so happened that “Palestine Writes” was held over the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

Rowan also said that more than 4,000 of Penn’s “most engaged alumni” say that the university is “heading in the wrong direction.”

He also said that while Magill did not create the antisemitism problem on campus, the question remains whether she is the right one to combat it. When asked, Rowan said he did not believe so.

The private equity head concluded by saying that being against Hamas was not merely a political difference of opinion.

“This is not about a political solution or disagreements over how Israel has treated Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza,” he said. “This is a group that is a terrorist group.”

By contrast, Rowan praised former Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, president of the University of Florida, for his statement unequivocally calling Hamas a terrorist group.

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