Jewish donors are demanding universities cancel free speech or lose financial support
By Cassie B. // May 13, 2024

Many Jewish people are outraged by the pro-Palestinian protests taking place at universities across the nation, and some big donors are now reconsidering supporting their alma mater financially in response. In some cases, they are even going so far as to demand the schools restrict students’ free speech on this matter or risk losing their financial support.

Battles between Israel supporters and those who are horrified by the genocide in Gaza have been taking place on campuses throughout the nation since the war began. It is a topic that is extremely divisive and has been dominating headlines for months. However, the situation has been escalating recently, prompting some educational institutions to cancel classes out of safety concerns and find reasons to send protesters home.

Now, some of the most influential donors to top Ivy League schools like the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University have said they will pull their donations to the schools as a form of expressing their displeasure with the way college administrators have been responding to what they claim is antisemitism on campuses.

Although it is not believed that such moves would cause a significant degree of financial damage to schools like these that enjoy significant endowments in the short term, there could be a devastating impact in the long run.

One expert in higher education finance, Lee Gardner, noted: “The impact is less likely to be immediate as potentially longer term on gifts or donations that may not have been in the works or would come to fruition for years.”

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In addition, if bigger and higher-profile donors cut ties to the universities, it could also convince smaller donors to stop making contributions as well. It could also have an effect on college admissions and damage alumni relations.

Although Ivy League schools are very wealthy and enjoy significant financial insulation from the impact of a few donors cutting ties, smaller private schools and state flagship schools are far more vulnerable to financial repercussions if this type of Jewish donor backlash spreads.

Ivy League schools are feeling the heat

The backlash is already being felt at Harvard, where the Wexner Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was founded by billionaire Leslie Wexner, broke off ties with the university on account of its stance on the controversy.

When a coalition of student groups there released a statement blaming Israel for the attacks against it by Hamas, the school was slow to react.

The leaders of the foundation said: “We are stunned and sickened by the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians.”

At the University of Pennsylvania, billionaire Ronald Lauder, who is one of the university's most powerful financial backers, threatened to stop donations if they do not take more steps to fight against antisemitism.

Financial expert Charlie Gasparino cautions that the schools that lose donations over this issue could end up facing a “massive liquidity crisis.” This may lead to a major financial downfall.

He tweeted: “Many endowments went so heavily into illiquid private equity where the payoff comes years later and they use donations to pay ongoing cash needs. A potential liquidity crisis at @Columbia @Harvard etc is not out of the question if the protests continue, something similar to what is happening at regional banks like SVB, my sources say.”

Many universities are already finding excuses to restrict students’ rights to free speech, often claiming antisemitism and hate speech as an excuse to shut them down, even when all the students are protesting is the death of innocent civilians in Gaza. Apparently, they care a lot more about their financial survival than upholding fundamental rights.

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