June 25, 2024

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Bill Ackman urges Harvard suspensions to tackle antisemitism

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Harvard alumnus and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman called on university president Claudine Gay to take immediate steps to reduce antisemitism on campus, a situation he called “dire” after meeting with students and faculty last week.

“Four weeks after the barbaric terrorist acts of October 7th, I have lost confidence that you and the university will do what is required,” Ackman wrote, describing the Cambridge campus as a place where Jewish students are concerned about the threat of physical violence against them.

A Harvard spokesperson pointed to the university’s prior comments over campus safety and community conduct but declined to directly address Ackman’s letter.

Tensions on campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, have surged since Hamas breached Israel’s border last month, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Demonstrations have regularly been held against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has led to the deaths of almost 9,500 people, according to the Gaza health ministry run by Hamas.

Antisemitic incidents including assaults, harassment and vandalism soared 400% across the US since Oct. 7, with 54 incidents reported on campuses, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The protests have divided campuses over the limits of free speech and strained relations among students, faculty, alumni and donors. At Penn, alumnus Marc Rowan has called for its leaders to resign amid charges they’ve tolerated antisemitism on campus.

The reputational damage to Harvard, the oldest US college, began hours after the attack by Hamas, when more than 30 Harvard student groups posted a letter placing the responsibility solely on Israel. Hamas is deemed a terrorist organization by the US and European Union.

Former university president Larry Summers slammed the institution’s failure to condemn the groups.

Ackman, founder of investment firm Pershing Square Capital…

Janet Lorin, Bloomberg

2023-11-05 13:42:20

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