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The Ivy League donor revolt isn’t over

Universities are struggling to raise funds. Credit: Getty

April 15, 2024 - 11:50am

Ivy Leagues universities are still struggling with fundraising amid donor concerns about DEI and campus antisemitism.

The University of Pennsylvania is now seeing its lowest donations and fewest donors since at least 2020, with fundraising down 21% over the same time last year. Penn’s Wharton School is also seeing a decline in donations, particularly from new donors, according to the dean.

Penn has been the centre of the donor revolt that began after 7 October and intensified following its then-president’s controversial congressional testimony on campus antisemitism in December. The school lost a $100-million gift from a donor who expressed concern that the school was “prioritising DEI over enhancing the business school’s academic excellence”.

But it’s not just Penn that has been suffering from a donor revolt. Jon Lindseth, a major donor to Cornell, recently halted general donations to the university in an open letter which called the school president’s muted response to the 7 October attacks “shameful” in comparison to her strong response to George Floyd’s death. Similarly, billionaire Leon Cooperman announced last year that he would no longer donate to Columbia University after students protested against Israel in October.

For many donors, it was the first time campus politics had spilled into their consciousness. As billionaire donor Bill Ackman noted in a viral January post, he had previously been ignorant of the prominence of identity politics on campus. The events following 7 October changed all of that.

Ackman was one of many donors to withdraw donations. In late January, the CEO and founder of the Citadel investing firm, Ken Griffin, halted donations to Harvard after $500 million in previous gifts, describing students as “whiny snowflakes” unable to move past an oppressor-oppressed framework in their view of global affairs.

“Will America’s elite university get back to [its] roots of educating American children – young adults – to be the future leaders of our country?” asked Griffin. “Or are they going to maintain being lost in the wilderness of microaggressions, a DEI agenda that seems to have no real endgame?”

Across the country, major universities are losing their patience with unruly student protests over the war in Gaza. As students storm and occupy campus buildings, and in one case trespass and disrupt an event at a dean’s personal home, universities are suspending and expelling students, and even requiring law enforcement to make multiple arrests.

“Elite academic institutions hold a special place in our society, with their pedigreed histories, impressive faculties and extensive resources,” major Penn donor Mark Rowan wrote last autumn as he called for fellow alumni to protest. “The embrace of antisemitism and other forms of discrimination by these institutions legitimizes and reinforces hate, racism and, ultimately, violence.”


is UnHerd’s US correspondent.

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Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin
1 month ago

And long may it continue. The only way academic institutions are going to clean house is when it hurts them in the pocket.

Campbell P
Campbell P
1 month ago

These donors’ abilities to make billions of dollars is sadly and shamefully matched by their inabilities to recognise apartheid and genocide when they are staring them in the face. Neither the younger generation of Jews throughout the world nor the orthodox religious Jews are so easily duped or disingenuous regarding the present secular atheist leadership and the new ‘religious’ nationalists of the present State of Israel. As they are fond of saying in Wall Street and the US arms industry, ‘When money talks morality walks.’

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

No one on Wall Street or the US arms industry says that. People who oppose Wall Street and the US arms industry say that.

Campbell P
Campbell P
1 month ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

You obviously know neither Wall Street nor the arms industry in the US, that’s for sure.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

I think the actual saying that you’re distorting is “Money talks and bullsh*t walks.”

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

whereas you don’t know much about anything at all.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

Do you have any criticism of Iran or is that not part of the fashionable propaganda narrative?
Is a functioning ME liberal democracy perhaps preferable to Islamic State?

Campbell P
Campbell P
1 month ago

Plenty of criticism; but two wrongs don’t make a right, and apartheid is apartheid and genocide is genocide whatever your politics or ideology.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

Since you’re citing apartheid, what was more common before October 7: Muslims going from Gaza to Israel for work, medical care, etc., or Jews going from Israel to Gaza for any reason?
Words can’t tossed in circumstances where they don’t apply so often that they become meaningless. The same is happening with charges of “anti-semitism” which are lobbed at anyone who is not in full-throated financial support of that war. I can support Israel’s right to exist and defend itself without also thinking my tax dollars are required.

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

i agree. Sending $$ to israel is an american decision and a policy decision, and like all policy decision, there are pros and cons. people who support the cons in this case are most certainly entitled to that view, which I don’t agree with but have no problem with.

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

Please give the citations for your robust condemnations of China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia. Other nations can be named which also have policies that make objections to Israeli policies risable.
I agree that saying others are worse doesn’t make anything right. But being on the record of condemnation of one and silence respecting others has a stench of underlying motives that are not moral.

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

Pity you don’t know what either of those two words actually means. But that’s what happens when you throw around buzzwords you’ve heard so often in that twisted little bubble you reside in.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
22 days ago
Reply to  Campbell P

I thought there were loads of Arabs in Israel with both citizenship and full civil rights . How is that Apartheid ? The IDF may have an over the top military response to the Hamas religious massacre but if genocide were the intention they have been pretty useless at it .

Benjamin Dyke
Benjamin Dyke
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

Are you kidding? The only apartheid I see is pro-Palestinians making the world a desperate place again for Jews and the only genocide I see is from the murderous pro-Palestinian groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran…

Campbell P
Campbell P
1 month ago
Reply to  Benjamin Dyke

Have you not read the reports by the Red Cross, the CIA, the US State Department on the 1948 Jewish massacres of Arab villagers? Even the commanders of the Irgun were ashamed of what they witnessed. Or do you still believe the lies – now proven and admitted – about the ‘beheadings of babies on 7th October? Facts are facts, however unpalatable.

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

If you have to go back to 1948 to find a massacre (not plural as you wrote) of Arabs, that says it all. In the intervening 76 years, how many such massacres have Palestinian terrorists been responsible for? That’s a rhetorical question, because the answer is “sh*tloads.” Also, given how you’re so fixated on Deir Yassin (the sure sign that there’s very little there there), you might also want to look at the Hadassah Hospital massacre that occurred at pretty much the same time. or Gush Etzion. Or, let’s not forget, Hebron 1929, 69 Jews slaughtered.

Johanna Barry
Johanna Barry
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

Morality seems to have been in pretty short supply among quite a few holier than thou groups just lately and not just rich people saying they aren’t going to continue providing money to support the clearly racist DEI agendas or the anti Jewish agendas. Their money. Their choice imo.

Campbell P
Campbell P
1 month ago
Reply to  Johanna Barry

Two ‘holier than thou groups’ – Bibi and the sons of Jabotinsky at one end, Hamas and Iran at the other; two sets of extremists NEITHER of whom any sane person should be supporting and the principal reason why there can be no peace in Gaza.

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

There is only 1 party responsible for there being no peace in Gaza and it’s not Israel.

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago
Reply to  Campbell P

The silly person here thinks neturei karta speaks for “orthodox religious Jews” when they are just a tiny fraction, less than 1% of religious Jews in Israel and/or worldwide. Then throws in the usual “money” slander, like all good antisemites. Obviously knows nothing about genocide or apartheid, but that’s a given.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago

“As billionaire donor Bill Ackman noted in a viral January post, he had previously been ignorant of the prominence of identity politics on campus.”
Welcome to the party, pal(s).

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
1 month ago

They should have been simply expelling these idiots all along.
Unfortunately they’ve been parasitic on liberal norms of tolerance & pluralism, which they’ve taken advantage of, & it’s been left to spread & amplify.

Johanna Barry
Johanna Barry
1 month ago

Money talks! Very nice.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 month ago

The money that’s been given to these universities just seems to make them wallow in decadence. There’s something to be said by operating in a world of scarcity. It’s time get back to ‘barebones’ education. Fire the thousands of administrators and focus on teaching, not indoctrination.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
1 month ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

But if we did this, Cathy, who would coordinate all the diversity?!?!?

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
21 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

The donors are (a) getting their not necessarily bright kids into top colleges (b) saving on their tax bill and (c) gaining prestige . That they only wake up when antisemitism is the issue doesn’t say much for their public spirit , unless they really believe in the woke agenda propagated with their billions .

Paul T
Paul T
1 month ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Having fewer resources doesn’t seem to have had any restraining effect on the progressive ideological indoctrination in UK higher education.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul T

But elite UK universities, while less affluent than their Ivy League counterparts, are far wealthier than continental European institutions. The last time I checked, Cambridge (my own alma mater), Oxford, ICL, etc., were not exactly operating on the breadline.
Despite the appalling progressive drivel, the top ten global universities, by every measure, are still exclusively American and British. This suggests either (a) the rankings are seriously flawed, or (b) the majority of students and academics are quietly getting on with the job, ignoring the politicised idiots.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
21 days ago
Reply to  Damon Hager

They are ranked higher for progressive values ?

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
19 days ago
Reply to  Alan Osband

It wouldn’t surprise me.

Arthur King
Arthur King
1 month ago

This shift in donation patterns signals a political shift in this elite donor base. This certainly will influence the political direction of the USA since this cohort has significant institutional and political power. The Democrats will suffer.

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
1 month ago

So it’s fine when they hate white Christians but unacceptable when they hate Jews. Got it

William Fulton
William Fulton
1 month ago

Cultural Marxism: Aimed at weakening free institutions for their eventual collapse. The proponents (DeAngelo, Kendi et al) admit this, while growing rich on the backs of their useful idiots and fellow subversives.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
21 days ago
Reply to  William Fulton

Sadly the rich supporters of DeAngelo Kendi et al probably see themselves as heirs of the less contentious Jewish supporters of civil rights in the Martin Luther King era .

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
1 month ago

They were fine with hostile anti-white identity politics. They encouraged it. They funded it. But any cricticism of Motherland Israël is blasphemy and a fireable offence.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

The more irreligious Jews vote for more liberal policies, which are untethered from common sense.

This is also true for Christians. With Muslims, it works in the reverse – the more irreligious are more sensible.

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago

The antisemites creep out of the woodwork yet again.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
21 days ago
Reply to  harry storm

It’s true though isn’t it . Just as secular Jews like my cousin and her boy are the biggest cheerleaders for mass immigration of Muslims .

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

Late to the party but better than not arriving at all. Still a little strange that attacks on white people, particularly men, were okay, and further attacks on Asian students seeking admission were okay, but now a line has been crossed. This newfound religion has more to do with principals than principles, and even though it’s the right decision, it’s not necessarily motivated by the right reasons.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 month ago

Good.