Apollo Global Management CEO Marc Rowan, a graduate and major donor of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), has called for the resignation of the university’s president and board chair over their alleged failure to strongly condemn antisemitism.
Rowan criticizes UPenn for hosting controversial festival
Rowan, who is also the chairman of the board of advisors of Wharton business school, wrote an op-ed for the student newspaper of his alma mater, The Daily Pennsylvanian. The guest column has not yet been published, but was viewed in full by Insider.
In his op-ed, Rowan accused UPenn President Elizabeth Magill and Board Chair Scott Bok of allowing the university to host the Palestine Writes Literature Festival last month, which he said featured “well-known antisemites and fomenters of hate and racism”.
Rowan said that the festival normalized and legitimized violence against Jews, especially in light of the recent attack by Hamas on Israel, which killed more than 1,000 people, including children.
He also said that Magill and Bok did not respond adequately to an open letter signed by more than 4,000 alumni, including himself, who expressed their disagreement with the direction of the university and demanded a clear denunciation of antisemitism.
Rowan urges alumni to stop donating until leaders step down
Rowan said that he was “deeply disappointed” by the lack of leadership and moral clarity from Magill and Bok, who he said have been “busy working to purge all trustees with dissenting points of view”.
He urged his fellow alumni to “close their checkbooks” until the two leaders resign and send UPenn $1 in place of their normal, discretionary contribution “so that no one misses the point”.
He also called on the trustees to begin moving UPenn in a new direction that respects its institutional values and supports the free exchange of ideas without endorsing hatred and bigotry.
UPenn defends its stance on antisemitism and academic freedom
UPenn has not yet commented on Rowan’s op-ed, but it had previously issued a statement on Sept. 12 addressing the controversy over the festival.
The statement said that the university “unequivocally — and emphatically — condemns antisemitism as antithetical to our institutional values”.
It also said that the university “fiercely supports the free exchange of ideas as central to our educational mission” and that this includes “the expression of views that are controversial and even those that are incompatible with our institutional values”.
The statement added that the festival was not sponsored or endorsed by the university, but was organized by an independent group that rented space on campus.
Rowan joins other business leaders in criticizing Ivy League schools
Rowan is not the only business leader who has slammed an Ivy League institution for not taking a stronger stance against what he called antisemitism.
Hedge fund chief Bill Ackman also recently criticized Harvard University for not naming and condemning students who are part of groups that blamed Israel for the conflict with Hamas.
Ackman, who is also a Harvard graduate and donor, said that he was “appalled” by the silence of Harvard’s president and dean on the issue.
He said that Harvard should uphold its values of truth, excellence, and diversity and not tolerate any form of discrimination or violence against any group of people.