Billionaire rips Harvard, says colleges spawn ‘whiny snowflakes’
Ken Griffin, one of the largest donors to Harvard University, said he won’t support the school financially unless it makes significant changes and accused elite US colleges of producing “whiny snowflakes” instead of future leaders.
“I’m not interested in supporting the institution,” Mr, Griffin said of Harvard at the MFA Network conference in Miami on Tuesday. The billionaire said the university must make clear that it will “resume its role educating young American men and women to be leaders and problem solvers.”
Mr. Griffin, an alumnus who donated $300 million to Harvard last year, joins a wave of wealthy donors who have halted gifts because of concerns over the school’s handling of antisemitism on campus since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, in addition to broader concerns over the influence of diversity initiatives and left-wing bias at the university.
Harvard is still struggling to resolve tensions even after President Claudine Gay resigned this month amid an onslaught of criticism over her response to antisemitism, as well as accusations of plagiarism in her scholarship.
The school has also come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers, students and alumni. Two congressional committees have begun investigations, with one of them criticizing Harvard last week for providing “woefully inadequate” responses to its questions. The US Education Department is conducting its own probe of discrimination including antisemitism and Islamophobia at Harvard and other schools.
Harvard didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about Mr. Griffin’s remarks.
The founder of hedge fund Citadel, whose net worth is valued at $36.8 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, said he was concerned after watching Ms. Gay’s Dec. 5 testimony in Congress, where she declined to condemn calls for genocide against Jews as a violation of university policies.
Mr. Griffin said he told members of Harvard Corp., the university’s top governing board, that he won’t support the school unless it makes changes. The council is led by Penny Pritzker, a former US commerce secretary.
“Where are we going with education in elite schools in America?” Griffin said, questioning whether Harvard can re-prioritize. “Or are they going to maintain being lost in the wilderness of microaggressions and a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) agenda that seems to have no real end game.”
After his gift to Harvard last year, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was renamed in his honor. Mr. Griffin, who graduated from Harvard College in 1989, also gave $150 million to the school in 2014, mainly to support financial aid.
His decision to pull back now will deepen the university’s financial pain. Harvard alumnus Len Blavatnik, whose family foundation has given at least $270 million to Harvard, paused donations last month. Donors such as billionaires Idan Ofer and Leslie Wexner had earlier halted support, and US Senator Mitt Romney accused the university of ignoring the safety of Jewish students.
Harvard depends on gifts from donors large and small to pay for expenses and add to its $51 billion endowment. The fund, which was built on donations that have been invested, has returned an annualized 8.2% in the past decade.
During its latest fiscal year, 37% of Harvard’s revenue came from endowment distributions, its largest source of income. Another 8% came from current-use gifts. — Bloomberg