Donor Revolt Hits Ivy League Schools Over Response to Hamas Attacks
Ivy League schools like the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard are facing a growing donor revolt. Prominent financiers have decided to cut off their support due to concerns over the schools’ responses to antisemitism and student activism related to the recent Hamas terrorist attacks. The conflict in the Middle East, particularly the violent Hamas attacks on Israel, has fueled outrage and tension on college campuses, sparking a donor backlash.
The University of Pennsylvania, known as UPenn, and Harvard, two prestigious Ivy League institutions, have seen influential donors withdraw their support, citing concerns over the institutions’ handling of the situation. Many of these high-profile donors are accusing the universities of moral relativism and equivocating in the face of terrorism.
Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and ambassador to Russia and China, recently announced that his foundation would cease its donations to UPenn. He expressed his disappointment, stating that the institution had become “almost unrecognizable.”
Ron Lauder, heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics company and a former ambassador, also expressed his concerns about a campus climate of antisemitism at UPenn. He informed President Magill that he would “reexamine” his financial support. Major UPenn donor David Magerman cited the “Palestine Writes Literature Festival” as a key reason for discontinuing his contributions to the university.
Billionaire CEO Marc Rowan was particularly outspoken. He called on President Magill to resign and declared that he would no longer donate to UPenn. His criticism was directed at the university’s failure to condemn the “hate-filled” “Palestine Writes Literature Festival,” which featured well-known antisemites and promoters of hate and racism.
In response to these allegations, Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, noted that this controversy had prompted a broader reckoning regarding higher education. The nature of the Hamas attacks and the celebrations by some professors and students had horrified many, leading them to question the direction of academia.
While donors’ concerns focused on the universities’ responses to these incidents, the conflict in the Middle East itself added to the controversy. The Hamas attacks on Israel resulted in significant casualties and loss of life on both sides. UPenn President Magill’s initial response, issued three days after the attacks, condemned Hamas but failed to address the “Palestine Writes Literature Festival,” which continued to draw criticism.
Harvard University faced similar challenges, with the Wexner Foundation ending its financial support due to what it saw as the university’s inadequate response to antisemitism and Hamas. Harvard President Claudine Gay attempted to address the situation by releasing a video statement, stating that the university rejects terrorism, hate, and the intimidation of individuals based on their beliefs while reaffirming support for free expression.
The controversy at UPenn and Harvard is a microcosm of broader issues affecting institutions of higher learning in the United States. It underscores the complexities surrounding freedom of expression, academic integrity, and the role of universities in facilitating open discourse while maintaining a respectful and inclusive environment. In the wake of this donor revolt, universities may need to rethink their approaches to handling contentious issues, particularly those related to international conflicts and divisive topics like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.