Some Utah colleges and universities have reacted, publicly or internally, to Hamas’ rocket strikes on Israel and their aftermath — while former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman told his alma mater in Pennsylvania that his family is cutting off donations because of what he sees as the school’s slow response to the attacks.
Huntsman — an alumnus, former trustee and longtime donor of the University of Pennsylvania — sent an email to the university’s president, Liz Magill, saying his family’s foundation will “close its checkbook” to the school, Penn’s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, reported over the weekend.
In his email, Huntsman called Penn “almost unrecognizable” and condemned the school’s “silence” on the attacks.
Huntsman did not return requests for comment Monday from The Tribune. A spokesperson said he was traveling abroad.
“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,” Huntsman wrote in his email to the school, the student paper reported. “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, who served as U.S. ambassador to China under President Barack Obama and ambassador to Russia under President Donald Trump, said his siblings support the decision to pull funding. That includes his brother Paul Huntsman, who serves on the board of advisors to Penn’s Wharton School, and who is also chairman of the board of directors of The Salt Lake Tribune.
The Huntsman family has donated tens of millions to the University of Pennsylvania over three generations, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported. Huntsman Hall is one of the Wharton School’s most prominent buildings.
Magill issued a second statement Sunday morning condemning Hamas’ attacks on Israel. “I stand, and Penn stands, emphatically against antisemitism,” Magill’s statement said. “We have a moral responsibility — as an academic institution and a campus community — to combat antisemitism and to educate our community to recognize and reject hate.”
Among Utah’s 10 major colleges and universities, the University of Utah, Utah State University and Utah Valley University issued public statements. Others acknowledged the attack and the escalating war between Israel and Hamas in internal emails to students and staff; others have not said anything as of Monday.
Here’s what Utah schools have said:
University of Utah
University of Utah issued the only public statement The Tribune could confirm. In a short statement posted on its website Wednesday, University of Utah officials said they “are horrified by the continuing violence, death and destruction in the Middle East and its impact on members of our campus community.”
The statement — signed by Taylor Randall, the university’s president, and other top officials — said many U. of U. students, faculty and staff “have family and friends in harm’s way.”
“As this crisis unfolds, let’s support one another, respect differences of opinion, and uniformly denounce violence and acts of hate,” the statement says.
A separate, longer letter from three U. of U. offices — Equity, Diversity & Inclusion; Student Affairs; and Global Engagement — encouraged students and faculty to resist polarizing arguments and instead “consider the enormity of loss and seek to comprehend the nuances at play. … Very little is certain besides the fact that more Palestinian and Israeli lives will be lost before this is over.”
The letter said the College of Humanities and the Middle East Center are planning a “teach-in” to “educate our campus community” on the conflict between Israel and Palestine, including its history “and why peace has been so elusive there.” Details have yet to be announced.
Utah State University
Utah State University officials sent a campus-wide email on Tuesday, Oct. 10, to offer support to students and staff.
”We are aware that many of you may be affected by tragic loss of life and unfolding violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip,” the email said. “We extend our solace and support to everyone in our community who is affected, those who are grieving, and those processing this attack.”
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University said last week that students and staff at its Jerusalem Center were safe after the string of attacks. Some students, faculty and families were evacuated Sunday afternoon, Mountain Time, according to an update posted on the school’s website. The Jerusalem Center’s executive director, associate director and head of security stayed behind, as did “nearly 50 local employees and their families,” according to the post.
“These beloved and trusted individuals and families – Israelis and Palestinians – remain in harm’s way,” the update said.
Leadership for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns BYU, said in a release last week they are “devastated by the recent eruption of violence and loss of life in the Middle East.”
Utah Valley University
In an email sent Friday to the Utah Valley University campus community, and a post online, officials said they are “praying” for an end to the conflict in the Middle East and offered resources to students and staff.
“Our hearts go out to the people of Israel and Gaza as this devastating conflict continues in the Middle East,” the email stated. “The levels of pain, suffering, and destruction are incomprehensible.”
Officials said they acknowledge that some UVU students and staff may have personal connections to the conflict, and provided information on where to find emotional and mental health support.
“We have no doubt that there are members of our UVU community who have close ties to people in Israel and Gaza and are experiencing this situation in very personal ways,” the email stated. “For others, the horrific scenes that have been playing out on news outlets and social media feeds won’t soon be forgotten.”
The resources listed included UVU’s Bias Education Support Team, an on-campus collective dedicated to educating and assisting those affected by bias incidents.
“Wherever you are emotionally, and regardless of how you’re personally responding to this situation, we offer the support of UVU’s leadership teams and resources to help you cope,” the email stated. “This is a time for all of us to reach out to one another, keep conversations open, and seek understanding.”
In the days following the attacks, Westminster University President Bethami Dobkin sent a message to the Westminster community expressing “compassion for all lives lost in armed conflicts, and in condemnation of terrorist atrocities whenever they occur.”
She continued, “horrific violence is likely to continue. Please keep your minds and hearts open. Consistent with our values and mission as a university with a liberal arts foundation, we collectively pursue understanding borne of empathy, respect, and awareness of the complexities and impacts of conflict here and abroad, and we seek to inform and contribute to the discoveries of humane and just pathways to peace.”
Westminster University also lowered the American flag in memory of lives lost.
Salt Lake Community College
“Like many of you, my heart is heavy with the violence and tragic destruction occurring in Israel and Gaza,” Salt Lake Community College President Deneece Huftalin wrote in an email to students and staff Friday. “The enormity of lives lost and families shattered is heartbreaking.”
The email asked SLCC community members to “keep the people of Israel and Gaza in your thoughts and prayers and collectively hope for movement toward a peaceful solution and an end to the violence and unimaginable pain.”
• Utah Tech University in St. George did not issue a statement, according to a spokesperson for the school.
• A spokesperson for Weber State University in Ogden said the school has shared support resources with students and held a “discussion session” last week on campus, but did not address the attacks publicly or issue a statement.
• Southern Utah University in Cedar City did not issue a public statement and a spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about the school’s public or internal response.
Clarification: In an earlier version of this article, Utah Valley University said it made a response in an email to its campus community last Friday. A university spokesperson later said the statement was also posted online.