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Penn students react to President Liz Magill's comments on campus antisemitism

Penn students discuss antisemitism, tensions on campus
Penn students discuss antisemitism, tensions on campus 02:34

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill spoke to a House of Representatives committee Tuesday about antisemitism on campus, including several incidents that have happened at Penn since Hamas attacked Israel in October.

Magill said in her testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce that she is fighting hate on campus with immediate and comprehensive action.

She said this year the school has received hateful messages against the Jewish community, and what she described as "vile antisemitic messages" were projected on several university buildings. Pro-Palestinian protesters have also marched through campus.

The hearing comes as tensions boil over on campuses nationwide in response to the Israel-Hamas war. Republicans pressed the administrations on how they have responded to rising tension. Harvard President Claudine Gay and Sally Kornbluth, president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also testified

Two Penn students who spoke to CBS News Philadelphia acknowledged the tensions but said campus feels safe.

"Of course there's been times where I've seen protests. It makes me a little bit uncomfortable but there's never been a time on this campus when I've truly felt unsafe," freshman Jake Gershwind said.

"I do see the protests, but I personally do not feel unsafe because I feel like there is a great strong Jewish community," freshman Grant Fuhrman said.

Penn is among the schools being investigated by the Department of Education for complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobic discrimination on campus.

Magill said her action plan includes safety and security measures as well as education and engagement efforts to fight antisemitism. The school has cooperated with law enforcement and the FBI, she said.

"I think the way that you get rid of hate between any groups of people is by people coming together and sharing their views and speaking because then you can humanize each other," one student said.

Moving forward, McGill said Penn is committed to a safe and supportive educational environment so that the academic mission can thrive.

"We must get this right. The stakes are too high. Penn would not be what it is without its strong Jewish community past, present and future," Magill said during the hearing. 

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