Utah governor Spencer Cox has discouraged public college presidents from making statements on contentious political issues.
“I do not care what your position is on Israel and Palestine. I don’t,” the governor told college leaders at a news conference with the Utah Board of Education, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “I don’t care what your position is on Roe v. Wade. We don’t need our institutions to take a position on those things.”
College presidents routinely make tough decisions about what issues to engage on, juggling the often-competing demands of students, alumni and trustees. Presidential statements on the Israel-Hamas war have recently sparked firestorms on multiple campuses.
If presidents want to speak out, they should run for office instead, Cox suggested.
Cox’s move to discourage college presidents from speaking up on political issues comes after former Utah governor Jon Huntsman accused his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, of failing to make an adequate statement on the war and threatened to withhold donations. Penn is just one of multiple institutions to face donor backlash over recent statements that many constituents believe did not go far enough in support of Israel or condemnation of Hamas. Conversely, some critics have raised concerns that colleges are too quick to support Israel and have ignored oppression of Palestinians.
Penn president Liz Magill is one of three college presidents who will speak at a congressional hearing on antisemitism today, joining the leaders of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, who will also address the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.