Harvard University has been accused of dragging its feet to address antisemitism on campus—and that could end up costing it dearly in terms of alumni support.
An open letter from the Harvard College Jewish Alumni Association (HCJAA) has called the school on the carpet for remaining silent following more than 30 student groups calling the Oct. 7 attacks and murder of over 1,000 Israeli citizens “justified.”
“We never thought that, at Harvard University, we would have to argue the point that terrorism against civilians demands immediate and unequivocal condemnation,” the open letter reads. “We never thought we would have to argue for recognition of our own humanity.”
The HCJAA is a new organization, formed just last month following the Hamas attacks on Israel. It currently has a membership of over 1,600 alumni from a wide range of professions. The group is calling on the school to formally state how it plans to protect Jewish students and to utilize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.
Claudine Gay, Harvard’s president, in a note to the school’s wider community, reiterated its “absolute commitment to the safety and wellbeing of every member of our community. Harvard has been and is a place of civil behavior and civil discourse. We do not condone—and will not ignore—antisemitism, Islamophobia, acts of harassment or intimidation, or threats of violence.”
The call for reforms at Harvard from alumni comes as other schools have seen funds withdrawn from benefactors for not acting quickly enough to squelch antisemitism on campus. Billionaire hedge fund manager and Pershing Square founder Bill Ackman has asked the school to reveal the names of students who signed a statement holding Israel “entirely responsible” for the deadly conflict so he and other CEOs do not “inadvertently hire” those people.
In a letter to Gay, who took the job of president at the school on July 1, Ackman wrote: ““As Harvard’s leader, your words and actions are followed closely. As a result, the steps you take to address antisemitism at Harvard will be recognized around the world, and can contribute greatly as an example to other institutions seeking to eliminate antisemitism in all of its forms.”
Former university president Larry Summers has slammed the institution’s failure to condemn the groups as well. And the Wesner Foundation has pulled financial support from the University over its response to the Hamas attack.
“Harvard was founded to advance human dignity through education,” wrote Gay in her note to the school’s community. “We inherited a faith in reason to overcome ignorance, in truth to surmount hate. Antisemitism is destructive to our mission. We will not solve every disagreement, bridge every divide, heal every wound. But if we shrink from this struggle, we betray our ideals.”