Campus protests usually don’t target any one person. But last week at Penn State, professors held a rally targeting New York private equity billionaire Mark Rowan.
An alumnus of Penn State and a major donor to the university, Mr. Rowan used his powerful resources to mount a ruthless campaign against Penn State President M. Elizabeth Magill, leading to her Resign in December.
But what happened next sparked protests. Rowan sent a four-page email to the university’s board of trustees titled “Moving Forward,” which many professors interpreted as a blueprint for a more conservative campus.
Amy C. Offner, a history professor who led the protest, called the document a “hostile takeover of the university’s core academic functions.”
The protest of about 100 people showed that the discord on campus is likely to continue despite Ms. Magill’s resignation, which many members of the Penn community hope will quell anger over her testimony at the prison hearing. The testimony seemed equivocal on whether the students were willing to resign. If they called for the genocide of the Jews, they would be subject to disciplinary action.
Instead, Penn State, now led by interim president Dr. Larry Jameson, faces a group of alumni, donors and students who believe the university has been taken over by a liberal orthodoxy that tolerates and even promotes anti-Semitism.
Penn State is now under attack from multiple fronts. It is a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Jewish students, funded in part by unnamed donors, and is the subject of a parliamentary investigation with subpoena power. State Republican lawmakers are threatening to withhold $31 million for its veterinary medicine program, the only state grant the private university receives.
Mr. Rowan and cosmetics heir Ronald S. Lauder, two alumni, were among the sponsors of a reelection fundraiser for Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., that a House committee is investigating at Penn and others University. Claims regarding anti-Semitism.
Mr. Rowan and Mr. Lauder did not attend the fundraiser, but organizers of the event— Andrew SabinA New Yorker who made his fortune recycling metal says sponsors are opposed to anti-Semitism and want to pressure Congress to revoke federal funding and the tax-exempt status of some universities.
independent investigation House Ways and Means Committee questions whether campus anti-Semitism jeopardizes Penn State’s nonprofit status as well as Cornell University, Harvard University and MIT
“We have a very, very positive path forward,” said Mr. Sabin, who did not attend Penn State.
Some professors at the university say the attacks on Penn are part of a conservative effort launched by governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis to overhaul American higher education – a program that The effort has now spread to dozens of universities, including Penn State, Harvard University and Columbia University.now belongs to investigation Federal action following reports of anti-Semitism.
“This is an anti-democratic attack, not just at Penn, but across the country, including at public universities in Florida, Texas, Ohio and beyond,” said Dr. Ofner, president of the American Universities chapter. Association of University Professors, a professional organization of teachers.
She said Penn State has become “ground zero for a nationally coordinated attack on higher education, organized by billionaires, lobbying groups and politicians who want to control what can be learned and taught in America.”
On Wednesday, two days after a fundraiser that raised about $60,000 for her campaign, Ms. Fox filed 14 page letter Request documentation from the university reflecting the situation worry Some Penn State Donors The number of Jewish students at Penn has declined as the university enrolls more Asian, black and Latino students.
Ms. Fox’s request cited data from the Jewish organization Hillel International, which shows that the number of Jewish undergraduates at Penn has dropped to about 1,600 students in 2023, or 16.4% of the student body, compared with about 2,500 students in 2013, or 16.4% of the student body. 25% of the total number of students, or 25% of the student body, A study A few years ago it was discovered that approximately 9% of college students nationwide are Jewish.
The full text of Mr. Luo Wen’s proposal is provided by Philadelphia Inquirer, framed as a series of questions about college orientation. It asked whether some academic programs should be eliminated and whether merit and academic excellence should be the primary considerations in hiring and admissions, which many interpreted as a call to eliminate diversity considerations.
The document sparked an immediate backlash push back From faculty and staff, of which more than 1,200 have signed letter Sent to trustees on January 16. “We oppose all attempts by trustees, donors and other outside actors to interfere with our academic policies and undermine academic freedom,” the letter said.
However, faculty members are not united in their opinions. Psychology professor Michael J. Kahana responded directly in an email to the Faculty Senate.
Dr. Kahana, who shared his email with The New York Times, wrote: “Your letter specifically addressed issues with Mark Rowan, which I have researched and found to be reasonable and helpful.” Dr. Kahana recently organized a travel Penn professor travels to Israeli university to express solidarity with Israeli academic colleagues.
Rowan, who chairs an advisory group to Wharton, the prestigious business school at the University of Pennsylvania, said through a neutral source that professors misunderstood his intentions.
“Mark was speaking out about these questions, and he wasn’t trying to provide answers,” neutral Steven Lippin said. “That’s never what Mark wanted. Ultimately, that’s what the trustees and faculty wanted.”
At last week’s rally, just as Penn State’s spring semester began, professors and others stood outside in freezing temperatures for nearly two hours and said they were seeking help from Penn State’s interim president, Dr. Jameson Guarantees that Mr. Rowan’s ideas will be implemented. About a dozen faculty speakers, as well as several students, said they feared donors were launching an attack on Penn State’s traditions of diversity, academic freedom and free speech.
So far, university administration has not issued what professors believe to be a strong repudiation of Mr. Rowan.But in a recent Q&A document release On the university’s website, Dr. Jameson, an endocrinologist who serves as dean of Penn Medicine, Reaffirmed the idea that the role of trustees is to delegate stewardship to academic leaders and faculty.
Neither Dr Jameson nor the university’s new chairman of the board, investor Ramanan Raghavendran, were available to comment for this article.
Mr. Raghavendran, who holds three University of Pennsylvania degrees, including one from the Wharton School, was appointed after the resignation of Scott L. Bok, an ally of Ms. Magill’s. of. Mr. Raghavendran’s selection as chairman of the board was viewed by some faculty members as a promising sign, citing his support for Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences, where he served on the advisory board.
Dr. Harun Kucuk, associate professor of sociology and history of science, said professors are likely to engage in more activism. The professor’s association, the AAUP, said membership on Penn’s campus is growing.
Dr. Kukuk, who most recently served as director of the university’s Middle East Center, protested the university’s attempts to block the screening of films critical of Israel.
“There’s a window of time to get things right,” he said, “and I don’t think that’s a year from now.”