Jon Huntsman Says Family Will No Longer Donate To University of Pennsylvania, Citing School’s Response To Hamas Attacks

Jon Huntsman (Getty Images)
October 16, 2023

Jon Huntsman, the former U.S ambassador to China and Russia, says his family will no longer give to the University of Pennsylvania after the school’s muted response to the terrorist attacks in Israel, depriving Penn of a major source of donations as it fends off allegations of anti-Semitism.

"The University’s silence in the face of reprehensible and historic Hamas evil against the people of Israel (when the only response should be outright condemnation) is a new low," Huntsman told Penn president Liz Magill in an email on Saturday. "Consequently, Huntsman Foundation will close its checkbook on all future giving to Penn." The family has donated over $50 million to the Ivy League school, of which Huntsman is an alumnus and former trustee.

Though McGill did condemn the attacks on Tuesday, she did not describe them as terrorism, referring instead to the "escalating violence" in the region.

"Moral relativism has fueled the university’s race to the bottom," Huntsman wrote. "It appears Penn has become deeply adrift in ways that make it almost unrecognizable."

The letter came after Marc Rowan, the CEO of Apollo Global Management and a trustee at the university’s Wharton School, called on Penn donors to cut off the gravy train, citing a university-sponsored event in September that included prominent anti-Semites. Magill refused to condemn the speakers or their views—and allegedly pressured some trustees to resign after they criticized her handling of the controversy.

In light of Hamas’s attacks, Rowan argued in a Wednesday essay, donors shouldn’t give another cent until Magill resigns. Several prominent alumni have already joined the boycott, including "Law and Order" producer Dick Wolf.

The donor pressure appears to be getting to Penn. Following the receipt of Huntsman’s letter, Magill on Sunday issued a follow-up statement about the attacks, describing them as terrorism and condemning anti-Semitism. She also clarified that Penn did not endorse the views of the speakers it had hosted at the September event, which took place over the Jewish High Holy Days and followed a string of anti-Semitic incidents on campus, including the vandalism of a university chabad.

"We should have moved faster to share our position strongly and more broadly with the Penn community," Magill wrote. "I stand, and Penn stands, emphatically against antisemitism."

The University of Pennsylvania did not respond to a request for comment.