Harvard University’s donor revolt and its potential impacts.
Another billionaire, Len Blavatnik, declaring intentions to cease giving. This poses a significant threat to the university’s ability to maintain its generous financial aid program for students.
Len Blavatnik, a billionaire whose family foundation has donated over $270 million to Harvard, has now paused donations due to concerns about the university’s response to antisemitism. This move reflects a growing trend among donors, including alumni and recent graduates, who are withholding gifts until Harvard takes more substantial action against antisemitism on campus.
In written and oral testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Gay detailed steps Harvard has taken to confront antisemitism in the weeks since Oct. 7, when Hamas killed some 1,200 Israelis in a surprise attack. The ensuing war has sparked protests and counterprotests around the world and across the nation, particularly on college campuses.
“We encourage the vigorous exchange of ideas but we will not, under any circumstances, permit speech that incites violence, threatens safety, or violates Harvard’s policies against bullying and harassment,” Gay, who has forcefully denounced antisemitic rhetoric in recent weeks, wrote in her prepared testimony. “My administration has repeatedly made crystal clear that antisemitism and other forms of hate have no place at Harvard. Threats and intimidation have no place at Harvard.”
Gay was joined at the hearing by antisemitism expert Pamela Nadell, a professor of history and Jewish studies at American University, and two other university presidents — M. Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The hearing also addressed efforts by the nation’s colleges and universities to protect students threatened by Islamophobia.
Gay said she has met with Jewish leaders, students, and groups in recent weeks on campus, mourning with them and offering her administration’s full support.
“I know many in our Harvard Jewish community are hurting and experiencing grief, fear and trauma,” Gay said in her opening remarks. “I have heard — from faculty, students, staff, and alumni — of incidents of intimidation and harassment. I have seen reckless and thoughtless rhetoric shared, in person and online, on campus and off. I have listened to leaders in our Jewish community who are scared and disillusioned.”