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Penn under investigation by another House committee over antisemitism allegations, tax-exempt status

University of Pennsylvania under investigation by another House committee
University of Pennsylvania under investigation by another House committee 00:24

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The University of Pennsylvania is under investigation by another congressional committee. This time the House Ways and Means Committee is looking into its tax-exempt status because of alleged antisemitism on campus. 

The committee's chair, Rep. Jason Smith, a Republican from Missouri, sent a letter Jan. 10 to Penn's Interim President J. Larry Jameson as well as the presidents of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University and the interim president of Harvard University. 

The schools have to "provide Congress with additional information regarding their failure to condemn Hamas' terrorist attacks on Israel and subsequent failure to protect Jewish students on their campuses," according to a press release from the committee about the letter.

Former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill came under fire last month after she spoke about antisemitism at a hearing in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. She resigned shortly after that hearing. Penn's board chair Scott Bok also resigned last month.

READ MORE: Penn President Liz Magill, board chair Scott Bok resign after controversial congressional hearing on antisemitism

The presidents of Harvard and MIT also testified during the earlier hearing. Harvard's president at the time, Claudine Gay, has since resigned as well.

"Given the disappointing and lackluster responses by your respective universities to Hamas' attacks and your subsequent failure to adequately protect Jewish students from discrimination and harassment, we question whether your institutions are satisfying the requirements to receive these benefits," the letter says, referring to the schools' tax-exempt benefits.

RELATED: Penn donor Ross Stevens threatens to pull $100 million donation after Liz Magill's testimony in Congress

The letter calls out Magill's testimony: "Even more disturbing [than other comments during the hearing] was former President Magill implying that such speech would only amount to illegal harassment if it turned into conduct — a truly horrifying sentiment for Jewish students across the country that have seen antisemitic conduct sweeping through college campuses, including yours, since October 7."

The letter asks the universities to respond by Jan. 24 with their "policies relating to student free speech rights, associational rights, and any relevant student codes of conduct" and answer questions including "What is your university doing, if anything, to examine how it evaluates the difference between free speech and harassment, threats, and incitement?" and "Do you have policies in place to determine when you, as a university president, will issue a statement in response to events either on your campus or elsewhere? If so, please provide a copy of those policies."

Most U.S. universities are tax-exempt because of their educational purpose, according to the Association of American Universities. That means that income from activities related to education are not subject to federal income tax.

The Ways and Means Committee has 25 Republicans and 18 Democrats.

LEARN MORE: Penn's veterinary school denied state funding amid resignations, fallout over congressional hearing

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