Jon Huntsman pulls donor funding from UPenn over 'moral relativism' in wake of Hamas attacks

Major donor accuses UPenn of growing 'nearly unrecognizable'

Jon Huntsman
Jon Huntsman | NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

Businessman and former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. informed the University of Pennsylvania that his foundation will "close its checkbook" to the school because of its response to antisemitism.

Huntsman, who graduated from the college in 1987 and served as governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009, accused his alma mater of exhibiting "moral relativism" that has rendered the institution "almost unrecognizable," according to a scathing email he sent to university President Liz Magill on Saturday.

"To the outsider, it appears that Penn has become deeply adrift in ways that make it almost unrecognizable,"  Huntsman wrote in the email, which was first obtained by student newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian. "Moral relativism has fueled the university’s race to the bottom and sadly now has reached a point where remaining impartial is no longer an option."

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"The University’s silence in the face of reprehensible and historic Hamas evil against the people of Israel (when the only response should be outright condemnation) is a new low," Huntsman further wrote. "Silence is antisemitism, and antisemitism is hate, the very thing higher ed was built to obviate."

Huntsman, whose family has reportedly given tens of millions of dollars to UPenn over the years, concluded by writing that the Huntsman Foundation "will close its checkbook on all future giving to Penn — something that has been a source of enormous pride for now three generations of graduates." He noted that his "siblings join me in this rebuke."

Huntsman's father, the late philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., graduated from Wharton in 1959 and donated $40 million to it in 1998, the largest-ever donation to a business school, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The university's initial response to Hamas' attacks against Israel marked the latest incident of donor frustration that began last month when the school hosted the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, an event that spanned days and featured speakers with a history of anti-Semitic comments.

On Friday, the university's Board of Trustees convened a three-hour emergency meeting, after which Trustee Vahan Gureghian announced his resignation, according to CNN.

“Just as at so many other elite academic institutions, the Penn community has been failed by an embrace of antisemitism, a failure to stand for justice and complete negligence in the defense of our students’ wellbeing,” Gureghian wrote in his resignation letter.

Marc Rowan, who serves as chair of Wharton School's Board of Advisors, has urged Magill and UPenn Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok to resign because of the school's handling of anti-Semitism, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.

Magill issued a statement on Sunday condemning Hamas and expressing regret at the school's response to the controversial Palestine Writes Literature Festival, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

"The University did not, and emphatically does not, endorse these speakers or their views," Magill wrote. "While we did communicate, we should have moved faster to share our position strongly and more broadly with the Penn community."

In a Tuesday statement provided to The Christian Post, Magill said: "Alumni are important members of the Penn community. I hear their anger, pain, and frustration and am taking action to make clear that I stand, and Penn stands, emphatically against the terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel and against antisemitism."

"As a University, we support and encourage the free exchange of ideas, along with a commitment to the safety and security of our community and the values we share and work to advance. Penn has a moral responsibility to combat antisemitism and to educate our community to recognize and reject hate in all its forms. I’ve said we should have communicated faster and more broadly about where we stand, but let there be no doubt that we are steadfast in our beliefs," Magill added.

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at

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