Penn president’s ‘permissive approach’ to antisemitism prompts donor to withdraw a $100 million gift

Investment manager Ross Stevens withdrew a donation valued at about $100 million that he had given his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, blaming the school’s stance on combating antisemitism.

Stevens, co-founder of Stone Ridge Asset Management, had pledged a stake in the firm to the Ivy League university to fund the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance.

Lawyers representing the firm said the school had violated anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies it had accepted in order to become an investor, according to a letter to university officials dated Thursday.

“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 or rules that prohibit harassment and discrimination based on religion, including those of Stone Ridge,” attorneys for the law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, wrote.

They said Penn President Liz Magill “admitted as much” in a post on social media platform X on Wednesday, when she said calls for genocide of the Jewish people constitute harassment and discrimination. Magill made the remarks after her testimony Tuesday at a US congressional hearing on antisemitism sparked a furor.

Magill has faced backlash for weeks for her response to protests over the Israel-Hamas war, but has seen calls to step down intensify after the hearing. Stevens echoed those calls. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the US and European Union.

The lawyers said that Stevens and his firm would welcome discussions with the university and offered “a chance to remedy what Stone Ridge believes are likely violations of the LP Agreement if, and when, there is a new University President in place.” 

“Until then,” the lawyers continued, “there can be no meaningful discussion about remedying the University’s ongoing failure to honor its obligations.”

An October report by the New York Times in October suggested a donation worth $100 million from Stevens to the university may have already been in jeopardy before Magill’s testimony.

The letter was earlier reported by Axios.

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