Tensions between college campuses and their big-money donors continue to escalate as wealthy contributors express their dissatisfaction with responses to the Israel-Hamas war. In recent days, notable figures have chosen to withhold their financial support in protest.
Last week, Marc Rowan, CEO of Apollo Global Management, not only called for the resignation of the University of Pennsylvania’s president and chairman of the board of trustees but also urged fellow alumni to significantly reduce their contributions to just $1, emphasizing the importance of their message.
The Huntsman family, which includes prominent figures like Jon Huntsman Jr., former governor of Utah and former U.S. ambassador to China, Russia, and Singapore, conveyed their decision to cease further donations to the Ivy League institution. Huntsman Jr. expressed his frustration in a letter published by the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, where he labeled the university’s silence on the Israel-Hamas conflict as a new low and a form of antisemitism.
As a result, the Huntsman Foundation announced it would no longer provide funding to Penn, despite their longstanding connection to the institution that spanned three generations of graduates.
It’s worth noting that the Huntsman family’s letter was written before the university’s president, Elizabeth Magill, issued an email addressing the war, in which she made it clear that she and the university condemned Hamas’s terrorist actions against Israel.
Adding to the chorus of discontent, computer scientist and hedge fund veteran David Magerman, affiliated with Renaissance Technologies, expressed his deep shame regarding his association with Penn and declared his intention to halt all donations to the university.
Even billionaire Ronald Lauder, an heir to the Estée Lauder fortune, has threatened to discontinue his donations to Penn.
The dissatisfaction is not confined to Penn, as Harvard University faced its own set of challenges. The Wexner Foundation, associated with retail billionaire Les Wexner, officially ended its partnership with Harvard, which had lasted for more than three decades. They cited Harvard’s perceived failure to take a strong stance against the “barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians by terrorists.”
However, Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, had issued a video statement the previous Friday, emphasizing the university’s rejection of terrorism, including the atrocities committed by Hamas.
In addition to withholding financial support, affluent alumni have criticized universities and their leadership for what they consider inadequate responses to antisemitism.
Bill Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund manager, called on Harvard to release the names of students who had signed a letter attributing blame for the conflict solely to Israel. The letter had cited Israeli actions against Palestinians over the past several decades.
At Harvard, Idan Ofer, one of Israel’s wealthiest individuals, and his wife stepped down from the board of the Kennedy School of Government. They pointed to a “lack of clear evidence of support from the University’s leadership for the people of Israel following the tragic events of the past week, coupled with their apparent unwillingness to recognize Hamas for what it is—a terrorist organization.”
The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has caused significant loss of life and injury, with Hamas launching terrorist attacks against Israel and Israel responding with a military campaign in Gaza. Israel and Egypt have imposed a longstanding blockade on Gaza, and Israel recently announced a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip, severely limiting access to basic necessities for the two million people residing there.
On Thursday evening, Israel issued an evacuation order to over a million civilians in northern Gaza, and border crossings into Gaza have largely been sealed off.
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