Hundreds of Harvard graduates threaten to stop giving money to the university unless they condemn anti-Semitism - ForumDaily
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Hundreds of Harvard alumni are threatening to stop giving money to the university unless it denounces anti-Semitism.

More than 1600 Harvard University alumni have said they will withhold donations to the school unless Harvard takes immediate action to combat anti-Semitism on campus. It was part of a wave of calls on colleges across the country to combat hate speech fueled by the war between Israel and Hamas. Writes about this CNN.

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High-profile billionaire alumni such as Pershing Square founder Bill Ackman and former Victoria's Secret CEO Leslie Wexner have already said that if Harvard doesn't take action to address the problem, they could face a donor exodus. Now the largest group of alumni, most of whom are not billionaires, is threatening to withdraw their donations.

“We never imagined that at Harvard College we would have to argue that terrorism against civilians requires immediate and unequivocal condemnation,” members of the Harvard College Jewish Alumni Association (HCJAA) wrote in an open letter to President Claudine Gay and Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana. “We never thought we would have to fight for recognition of our own humanity.”

HCJAA was formed last month as the university's response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Organizers say this is the first Jewish alumni association in the university's history.

On the subject: Harvard students supported Hamas' attack on Israel: now sponsors are abandoning the university, and they don't want to hire graduates

The group is demanding that Harvard recognize the alumni association as an official special interest group, share specific plans to ensure protections for Jewish students on campus, and formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism.

“We now have a movement of more than 1600 alumni calling for meaningful reforms on campus to ensure the safety of every student,” said Rebecca Claire Brooks, co-founder of HCJAA.

“This is a broad and growing intergenerational movement of graduates from a wide range of sectors and industries. Yes, some of them are very influential donors, and some of them are more ordinary donors. But we present a united front,” she emphasized.

On Thursday, November 9, Harvard President Gay wrote to members of the Harvard community in a letter addressing the tension.

“Harvard rejects all forms of hate, and we are committed to fighting it,” she wrote. “Let me repeat what I and other Harvard leaders have said before: anti-Semitism has no place at Harvard.”

She said the institution has “begun the process of examining how anti-Semitism manifests itself in our community” and will “conduct an active program of education and training for students, faculty, and staff on anti-Semitism in general and at Harvard in particular.” The school, Gay noted, “is committed to identifying external partnerships that will allow Harvard to learn from and work with others as part of our strategy.”

The Impact of Philanthropy

Philanthropy is Harvard's largest source of income, accounting for 45% of the university's $5,8 billion in revenue last year. Philanthropic giving accounted for 9% of the university's operating budget last year and 36% of its $51 billion endowment accumulated over decades.

According to the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), while most university giving is in large amounts, small alumni donations are becoming an increasingly important source of higher education funding. About 95% of donations received by universities in 2022 were less than $5.

CASE says universities like to talk about the large number of donations they receive to show they have an active alumni base. And while large donations are often earmarked for specific purposes, such as the construction of a new building or structure, universities have more flexibility in how they use smaller donations.

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“I wanted to make sure that people, regardless of their income, could express their disappointment or dissatisfaction with the university,” Brooks explained. “This is an egalitarian grassroots movement in which any donor, no matter their religion or age, no matter how much they typically give, can participate in the campaign, sending a clear message that this kind of toxic culture on campus is detrimental to everyone.”

Brooks said several similar groups at other universities have approached her about starting similar campaigns on their campuses.

More than 300 Cooper Union alumni also recently threatened to stop donating over the New York institution's response to anti-Israel protests. In a letter sent to the school earlier this month, they accused the administration of being "more concerned with avoiding scandal than with protecting its Jewish students."

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