Chairman of Advisory Board of Wharton School Calls on Fellow Alumni To Stop Funding Penn Until President Elizabeth Magill and Chairman Scott Bok Resign

The chief of Apollo Global Management circulates a scathing letter citing antisemitism at a literary festival and hostility to Israel that is countenanced on the storied campus.

Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
Marc Rowan on November 3, 2022, at New York City. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

A letter calling for University of Pennsylvania alumni and supporters to stop funding the school in an effort to bring about the resignations of the university’s president, Elizabeth Magill, and its chairman, Scott Bok, was penned by none other than the chairman of the board of advisers of Penn’s most famous unit, the Wharton business school, Marc Rowan.

Mr. Rowan, a Wharton alumnus and the chief executive of Apollo Global Management, wrote the letter this morning. He spoke out just weeks ago when the Palestine Writes Literature Festival was held on campus, featuring antisemitic speakers who called for the eradication of Jews from Israel. The event occurred just days before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Mr. Rowan helped to organize and disseminate a petition objecting to the university’s tepid response to the event. It demanded stronger measures be taken by administrators to distance the school from the festival’s overt antisemitic messages, and called for an evaluation of the processes by which sponsored events are scheduled. It was signed by more than 4,000 people.

Mr. Rowan points out that he did not expect the school to shut down the festival, but he did expect leadership to act as it would have had any other minority group been targeted. “Once the University’s stamp was on it, all Liz had to do was call it what it was, at a bare minimum,” he says. “Penn has become an environment where the adults are unable to exercise moral authority.”

Over the weekend, as Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, killing more than 1,200 men, women, and children, wounding thousands more, and taking more than 100 hostages, President Magill again failed to respond, according to Mr. Rowan.

“Liz was tweeting about Indigenous People’s Day and posting pictures with her dog as men, women, and children were being slaughtered 19th century-style,” he said. “She didn’t even understand the linkage — this is what the festival speakers called for. The school just isn’t concerned with understanding how we got here.”

In response to the pushback about her handling of the festival, President Magill asked four Jewish trustees to step down from their positions, including Mr. Rowan, he says. He declined her suggestion and now has made his own in his open letter. He estimates that the letter has already cost the school $150 million: “It has shut down fundraising for the Penn Fund, for new gifts. It has gone viral in the community.”

Many professors and administrators at Penn have privately emailed Mr. Rowan expressing their support, he says. They use their Gmail accounts because they worry about consequences from the school. “Liz has presided over a climate of fear,” Mr. Rowan says.

A real estate investor, Seth Berger, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991, is just one of many supporters of Mr. Rowan’s efforts. “His letter,” Mr. Berger says, “highlights the complete lack of understanding of the illiberal ideology which has corrupted all of our institutions. There is a complete lack of moral courage, clarity or consistency. Marc has demonstrated he has them all.”


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