Harvard President Claudine Gay has been under fire for two weeks for her comments, considered ambiguous, about anti-Semitic excesses on campus. On Thursday, billionaire Leonard Blavatnik joined the chorus of criticism by suspending his donations to the school, and conservative political scientist Carol Swain called for the president to be impeached in part over allegations that she plagiarized his work.
Brian Bushard’s article for Forbes USA – translated by Lisa Deleforterie
- Leonard Blavatnik, who received an MBA from Harvard Business School and has donated more than $270 million to Harvard through his family foundation, has suspended his donations, Bloomberg reported Thursday. He cited Ms. Gay’s testimony to Congress earlier this month about anti-Semitism, which drew sharp criticism from lawmakers and other university donors, including billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman.
- A source familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that Mr. Blavatnik will suspend his donations until the university combats what it sees as a rise in anti-Semitism on campus (Forbes contacted the Blavatnik Family Foundation for confirmation).
- The news comes as Ms. Gay is currently facing a barrage of criticism from mainly right-wing lawmakers and pundits over allegations of plagiarism, including her 1997 theses. The president also faces allegations, including from Mr. Ackman, that she was hired because of her color skin (Mrs. Gay is the first black president of Harvard).
- In a post on X, Ms. Swain, a fellow at the Institute for Faith and Culture, called on Harvard officials to “stop listening to the plagiarism apologists” and instead hire “a better man or woman” to run the university.
- Ms. Swain also accused Ms. Gay of plagiarizing her 1993 book titled Black Faces, Black Concerns: African American Representation in Congressas well as an article she wrote in 1997. In column v The Wall Street Journal, she said, “The damage I have suffered goes beyond two instances of plagiarism.” “Ms. Gay ignored the nature of the problem and the essential importance of my research,” he adds.
- Ms. Gay, who was unanimously approved by Harvard’s board of trustees earlier this month as calls for her resignation mounted, did not respond to Forbes’ request for comment.
In the United States, Ivy League universities have become the focus of debate about the war between Israel and Hamas following the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. University officials have faced sharp criticism from some donors, faculty members and a group of billionaires for their response to reports of rising anti-Semitism on their campuses. Ms. Gay also faced harsh criticism from lawmakers after a tense hearing on anti-Semitism in the House of Representatives earlier this month, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle chastising her for her response to a question about whether calls for Jewish genocide would violate school policies on harassment and bullying (Ms Gay responded that such calls could constitute a violation “depending on the context”). Three days after the hearing, a group of 72 Republicans and two House Democrats signed a letter demanding that Ms. Gay, along with MIT President Sally Kornbluth and former University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, be fired “immediately.” for what the signatories see as their “failure to unequivocally condemn calls for the genocide of the Jewish people” (M. Magill resigned less than a week later). Last week, the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on the leaders to resign, saying their testimony before Congress was “evasive and dismissive.”
Ms Gay resisted calls to resign and apologized for her response during a congressional hearing, issuing a statement earlier this month that calls for genocide against the Jewish people “or any other religious or ethnic group are unspeakable”. She also said Harvard Crimsonafter hearing in the House of Representatives that she “should have had the presence of mind” during her testimony to “return to the truth” that guides her, “which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community have no place at Harvard.” Harvard’s governing body, Harvard Corporation, unanimously endorsed Claudine Gay amid calls for her resignation earlier this month, issuing a statement saying the Ivy League’s first black president was “an ideal leader to help our community deal with the very serious social issues we face.”
Mr. Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated to be around $31.7 billion (€28.8 billion). Of Ukrainian Jewish origin, he is the vice president of Warner Music Group, the founder of Access Industries and the 47thE the richest man in the world. Mr. Blavatnik has also pledged more than $1 billion to several universities, including Harvard, Stanford and Oxford.
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