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Antisemitic messages projected onto University of Pennsylvania buildings, president says

Concerns grow after antisemitic messages projected onto University of Pennsylvania buildings
Concerns grow after antisemitic messages projected onto University of Pennsylvania buildings 02:45

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Antisemitic messages were projected onto several University of Pennsylvania campus buildings Wednesday night, university president Liz Magill said.

The university said the messages shined on the walls of Penn Commons, Huntsman Hall and Irvine Auditorium.

Magill said Penn Police are actively investigating.

"For generations, too many have masked antisemitism in hostile rhetoric. These reprehensible messages are an assault on our values and cause pain and fear for our Jewish community," Magill said in a statement. "Penn has a long and rich history of robust debate about complicated issues of the day. Projecting hateful messages on our campus is not debate, it is cowardice, and it has no place at Penn."

The Anti-Defamation League Philadelphia said in a statement, "The appalling projections of antisemitic messages at UPenn serves as another reminder of the unsafe antisemitic environment that has become normalized at far too many college and university campuses."

The lighted projections are but the latest developments testing the university administration's response. The university campus has been roiled in the last few weeks with demonstrations backing both Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

Earlier this week, university staff, specifically naming Penn Hillel and Lauder College House, received threatening antisemitic emails. Penn's Division of Public Safety found no credible threat after completing sweeps of Penn Hillel and Lauder College House. Magill said earlier this week the FBI joined the university's investigation into the emails. The investigation is still ongoing.

Earlier this month, Penn said it is implementing new preventive measures to fight antisemitism on campus. It came in the aftermath of a student being taken into custody in September for causing a disturbance at Penn Hillel during the student-led Jewish organization's morning prayer service.

Penn Police and Allied security will have an increased presence at Penn Hillel, the Katz Center, Lubavitch House and other religious and cultural spaces, according to Magill. Magill added any rallies, protests, vigils and other campus gatherings would also have increased security.

Philadelphia defense attorney Bill Brennan told CBS News Philadelphia that police and prosecutors have a high bar to reach when considering charges, given First Amendment protections.

"That's the state of the law," Brennan said. But you know, it's certainly a tough law to swallow when  you know you're the kid on campus being targeted because of your ethnicity."

Federal law enforcement is involved in the investigations at UPenn.

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