Despite Harvard President Claudine Gay having “clarified”—twice—an earlier weaselly stand on the war sent out by many administrators, it’s still losing donors. (Gay assured Harvard in an email and a video that yes, the University really did oppose the barbaric acts of Hamas in Israel.) Donor withdrawal hits the school where it hurts.
The latest donor to cut ties with the school was a foundation: the Wexner Foundation, started by two Victoria’s Secret billionaires. But read today’s CNN article for the details (click on headline below):
A nonprofit founded by former Victoria’s Secret billionaire Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail is breaking off ties with Harvard University, alleging the school has been “tiptoeing” over Hamas’ terror attacks against Israel.
The Wexner Foundation’s decision to end its relationship and financial support for Harvard is the latest fallout amid criticism from donors who were alarmed by the university’s initial response to the attacks and to an anti-Israel statement issued by student groups.
The end of Wexner’s support comes as college campuses across the United States are in turmoil over responses from students, professors and administrations to Hamas’ attack on Israel and the ensuing war. Big donors have pulled money from a number of high-profile universities. Students have protested and some have been publicly shamed for their views. A handful of faculty have been lambasted by students and administrations for sharing controversial views. And university leaders are clinging onto diminishing support as some fight for survival.
“We are stunned and sickened by the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians,” the Wexner Foundation’s leaders wrote in a Monday letter to the Harvard board of overseers.
The Wexners, whose fortune is estimated to be $6 billion, according to Forbes, specifically cite the statement released by a coalition of student groups that blamed solely Israel for the terror attacks by Hamas.
, . .“Harvard’s leaders were indeed tiptoeing, equivocating, and we, like former Harvard President Larry Summers cannot ‘fathom the administration’s failure to disassociate the university and condemn the statement’ swiftly issued by 34 student groups holding Israel entirely responsible for the violent terror attack on its own citizens,” the Wexner Foundation letter reads. “That should not have been that hard.”
Summers, a former economic official in the Obama and Clinton administrations, drew attention last week to the “morally unconscionable” student statement and slammed Harvard leaders for their response.
Citing the “absence of this clear moral standard,” the Wexner Foundation said it has determined the Harvard Kennedy School is no longer a “compatible” partner for its organization.
Last week, Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and his wife Batia quit a Harvard executive board in protest of how university leaders responded to the Hamas terror attack on Israel.
Finally, Wexner faulted Harvard for not promoting viewpoint diversity. It’s guilty as charged! (Bolding is mine.)
The Wexner Foundation says its mission is to develop and inspire leaders in the North American Jewish community and Israel through programs and investments in promising professionals. The foundation has deep ties to Harvard supporting a fellowship program at the Kennedy School of Government that allows government and public service professionals in Israel to study at Harvard for a year.
Beyond Harvard’s response to the terror attacks and anti-Israel letter, the Wexner Foundation cited a broader problem where “tolerance for diverse perspectives has slowly but perceptibly narrowed over the years.”
That feeling was amplified by recent events, the letter said.
“Many of our Israel Fellows no longer feel marginalized at HKS. They feel abandoned,” the Wexner Foundation said.
Money talks, especially to rich colleges like Harvard, though it hardly needs the dosh (its endowment was, in 2021, $53.2 billion).
I wouldn’t give money to Harvard, even though I’m an alumnus, as there are more deserving schools out there (my will earmarks money for medical and food assistance for poor children throughout the world, for buying up land for conserving natural habitat, and for animal welfare—three causes I see as more pressing than enriching my undergrad and grad schools). But if a school to which I donated did weasel about the war, I might consider breaking ties with it.
But I doubt that this will spread since President Gay did issue two statements condemning Hamas, but one wonders if at least part of the motivation for those statements was fear of losing donors.
We all know that the main job of a college president is not managing college affairs (that usually goes to the Provost or a big dean), but raising money. And not raising money is a sure way to hasten your “resignation.”
I want to add that if Harvard, like Chicago, had a written policy on political neutrality, stuff like this wouldn’t happen, for if you vow not to take explicit political, ideological, or moral stands, you can’t be faulted for not taking them! So far I haven’t heard of any donors to the University of Chicago cutting ties with us for not damning Hamas.
Here are the Wexners, no longer donors: