Students walk between classes in front of College Hall on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller
The University of Pennsylvania police and the FBI are jointly investigating a series of threatening antisemitic emails sent to university staff, Penn President Liz Magill said on Monday.
In an email to the university community, Magill said she learned that some Penn staff members received “vile, disturbing antisemitic emails threatening violence against members of our Jewish community, specifically naming Penn Hillel and Lauder College House.” Magill said the messages targeted the personal identities of the recipients.
The threats come amid heightened tensions on US college campuses and at Penn, in particular, amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. Penn, and Magill, have especially felt those tensions, as a Palestinian literary festival, held before the Hamas attack on Israel, has stoked anger from major donors.
No credible threats were found after police conducted safety sweeps of Penn Hillel and Lauder College House, according to Magill, though she said Penn Police had notified the FBI of a potential hate crime and a joint investigation is underway.
Penn Hillel is an on-campus Jewish organization. Lauder College House is an on-campus dorm named after the family of Estée Lauder, which includes University of Pennsylvania graduate Ronald Lauder.
Ronald Lauder recently threatened to cut off donations if the school did not do more to fight antisemitism.
In a statement to CNN, an FBI spokesperson said the bureau is working closely with Penn Police.
“We encourage members of the public to immediately report anything they consider suspicious to law enforcement. Nothing is more important than the safety of our communities and we will not tolerate violence motivated by hate and extremism,” the spokesperson said.
Magill denounced the threatening emails, calling them “vicious and hateful antisemitic acts and words.”
“The perniciousness of antisemitic acts on our campus is causing deep hurt and fear for our Jewish students, faculty, and staff and shaking their sense of safety and belonging at Penn. This is intolerable,” she said.
Last week, a student at another Ivy League school, Cornell University, was arrested and federally charged after he allegedly authored a series of online posts threatening to kill and harm Cornell’s Jewish students.
Both UPenn and Magill have faced backlash after a “Palestine Writes Literature Festival,” which the university acknowledged included speakers with a history of making antisemitic remarks, took place on campus in September, before Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel. Magill faced calls for her resignation for failing to condemn the festival more forcefully.
Some of UPenn’s big-money donors, including former governor Jon Huntsman and Apollo Global Management CEO Marc Rowan, have vowed to cut off funding to the university.
Last week, Magill launched an action plan to combat antisemitism that will focus on safety and security, engagement and education.
“This is an incredibly challenging moment in the world, and we are feeling its reverberations on our campus,” Magill wrote in a letter to the Penn community on Wednesday. “We can and will do better to combat antisemitism and to reject hate in all its forms.”
CNN’s Raja Razek and Matt Egan contributed to reporting