Fakhreddine v. University of Pennsylvania

March 2024
University of Pennsylvania (Private college or university)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Not Clear
  • Incident Responses:
  • Incident Status:
    In litigation Federal District Court
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


On January 24, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce requested the University of Pennsylvania to turn over all documents concerning student and faculty activities relating to possible anti-Israel protests on campus. On February 7, The Daily Pennsylvanian, the University’s student newspaper, reported that Penn would comply with the demand and begin the multi-week process of transferring documents to the Committee.

On March 9, however, two University of Pennsylvania professors and the Penn Faculty for Justice in Palestine filed a lawsuit in federal court against their University, seeking an emergency injunction to block the transfer of information from the University to the Committee.

The Plaintiffs warn that “[t]his nation is seeing a new form of McCarthyism, in which accusations of anti-Semitism are substituted for the insinuations of Communist leanings which were the tool of oppression in the 1950’s,” and that “[t]he committee has eagerly joined billionaire donors, pro-Israel groups, other litigants, and segments of the media in accusing Penn of being a pervasively anti-Semitic environment (which it is not).”

They argue that handing over the documents could put students and faculty at risk of being “doxed” or threatened, putting their safety, privacy, career, and academic freedom at risk. They also note that “[s]ince this was not a subpoena but a letter requesting voluntary compliance, Penn would have been within its rights to protect its community by refusing compliance,” and that Penn’s trustees are complying because they are “off-balance and frightened by the accusations of anti-semitism.”

The University is expected to file a motion to dismiss. In an April 3 letter to the district court by Seth Waxman, a member of defense counsel, he argued that Plaintiffs lacked standing as they “fail to identify concrete and certainly impending injuries.” Moreover, Waxman argued, even if Plaintiffs had standing, the complaint should be dismissed because Penn is “neither a state actor nor acting under color of state law by complying with an [House] information request” and “its compliance with the request does not plausibly violate plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”