Dick Wolf, the creator of “Law & Order,” wrote a letter to Liz Magill pleading with her to step down as president of the University of Pennsylvania.
Wolf, the namesake of UPenn’s Wolf Humanities Center, is among a growing list of powerful donors vowing to cut off financial support to the Ivy League school over concerns about a Palestinian literature festival held on campus last month.
“President Magill, I implore you and [chair of the board of trustees] Scott Bok to step down from your UPenn positions before any more unnecessary damage to UPenn,” Wolf wrote in the letter, obtained by CNN on Friday. “There is no hope for unification in our community until you step aside.”
The Emmy award-winning producer said a leadership change is the “only path forward” and he will “end all donations to UPenn” until both leaders resign.
The catalyst for the donor backlash is the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, which was held at UPenn last month prior to the Hamas terror attacks on Israel. UPenn leaders acknowledged prior to that multiday event that it would include speakers with a history of making antisemitism remarks.
“The notion that the Wolf Humanities Center contributed to this hate fest, otherwise known as the Palestine Writes Festival, is an abomination,” Wolf wrote in the letter, which has not been previously reported.
Wolf’s letter goes further than a statement he gave to The Daily Pennsylvanian last week saying Bok and Magill “should be held to account” because their leadership has “inadequately represented” the university’s ideals and values.
UPenn did not respond to a request for comment on Wolf’s letter.
Organizers of the Palestine Writes festival denied that it embraced antisemitism, according to UPenn student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Criticism over the event escalated in the days after Hamas attacked Israel. Billionaire Marc Rowan, former US Ambassador Jon Huntsman, venture capitalist David Magerman and hedge fund billionaire Cliff Asness have all vowed to close their checkbooks. Ronald Lauder, the billionaire heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics empire, has threatened to do the same.
For his part, Wolf said he wrote to Magill in September ahead of the Palestine Writes festival, but his “request was ignored and things have gone from bad to worse at our beloved UPenn.”
The “Law & Order” creator noted he was raised by a Jewish father and an Irish Catholic mother and has supported “many faith traditions and free speech throughout my life.”
“I am against all forms of hate and hate speech and view this conference as inappropriate and quite frankly an embarrassment to the University,” Wolf wrote.
Magill, who became president of UPenn last year, issued a statement on Wednesday saying “hateful speech has no place at Penn.”
“I categorically condemn hateful speech that denigrates others as contrary to our values,” Magill said. “In this tragic moment, we must respect the pain of our classmates and colleagues and recognize that our speech and actions have the power to both harm and heal our community. We must choose healing, resisting those who would divide us and instead respect and care for one another.”
Bok, who chairs UPenn’s board of trustees and serves as CEO of investment bank Greenhill & Co., said earlier this week that Magill has “unanimous” support from current and former UPenn trustees who gathered in recent days.
In the days before the Palestine Writes festival, Magill was not just facing pressure from Lauder, Wolf and others who wanted the event scrapped. There were also vocal backers of the event, including even some members of the Jewish community.
Dozens of Jewish members of the UPenn community wrote to Magill prior to the event to express their “enthusiasm” for it. They even criticized Magill’s condemnation of antisemitism, writing that “using this celebration of Palestinian literary traditions as an occasion to condemn antisemitism, your statement further marginalizes Palestinian experiences on campus, while supporting attempts to conflate Palestinian liberation with antisemitism”.
Three dozen members of the UPenn faculty also wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian in support of the Palestine Writes festival.