The Wexner Foundation, a nonprofit founded by billionaire Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail, has broken ties with Harvard University over the school’s response to the Hamas terror attacks against Israelis and to an anti-Israel statement issued by student groups.
“We are stunned and sickened at the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians by terrorists last Saturday,” the Wexner Foundation’s leadership wrote to the Harvard board of overseers, in an Oct. 16 letter obtained by The Epoch Times.
Abigail and Leslie Wexner, whose fortune Forbes estimates at $6 billion, were among the signatories of the letter. The couple expressed their disappointment with Harvard’s failure to condemn a shocking statement issued by 34 student groups that says Israel is entirely responsible for the violent attack carried out on Oct. 7 by Hamas terrorists.
Over 1,400 Israelis were killed in the terror attacks, the vast majority civilians, while some 200 were taken hostage. A member of the Israeli nongovernmental rescue and recovery service ZAKA said that at one Israeli community targeted by the attackers, roughly 80 percent of the 280 murdered victims bore signs of torture, including children.
Following the attacks, 34 student groups co-signed an Oct. 8 letter authored by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee that held “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”
“Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum,” the letter said. “The apartheid regime is the only one to blame. Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years.”
After Harvard was criticized for its silence on Hamas’s deadly attacks and on the student letter, a chorus of alumni and professors rebuked the students’ statement, including former Harvard president Larry Summers, who said the letter “sickened” him.
“The silence from Harvard’s leadership, so far, coupled with a vocal and widely reported student groups’ statement blaming Israel solely, has allowed Harvard to appear at best neutral toward acts of terror against the Jewish state of Israel,” Mr. Summers wrote in a post on X.
Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and his wife Batia quit a Harvard executive board in protest over how university leaders responded to the Hamas terror attacks.
“Unfortunately, our faith in the University’s leadership has been broken and we cannot in good faith continue to support Harvard and its committees,” the couple said in a statement to CNN.
Following the backlash, at least nine organizations that initially signed the letter withdrew their support.
Harvard University President Claudine Gay would later issue a brief statement condemning “the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas” while also noting that students “have the right to speak for themselves” but insisting that they don’t speak on behalf of the university.
“We will all be well served in such a difficult moment by rhetoric that aims to illuminate and not inflame,” she wrote. “And I appeal to all of us in this community of learning to keep this in mind as our conversations continue.”
But the Wexners said that Harvard’s overall response to the Hamas atrocities wasn’t good enough.
“Other university presidents have said precisely what we should have heard from President Gay: ‘What Hamas did is evil and there is no defense for terrorism. This shouldn’t be hard,'” the Wexners wrote, citing Ben Sasse, President of the University of Florida.
They accused Harvard leaders of “tiptoeing, equivocating, and we, like former Harvard President Larry Summers cannot ‘fathom the administration’s failure to disassociate the university and condemn the statement'” issued by the student groups.
The Wexners wrote that, in the absence of the kind of “clear moral stand” demonstrated by Mr. Summer’s swift condemnation of the students’ statement, the Wexner Foundation and Harvard “are no longer compatible partners.”
“Our core values and those of Harvard no longer align,” they wrote, adding that the Wexner Foundation was ending its financial and programmatic ties with Harvard and the Harvard Kennedy School.
CEOs Look to Blacklist Students Over Anti-Israel Letter
The negative reaction to the Harvard student groups’ anti-Israel statement also extended to America’s corporate boardrooms.
A number of CEOs of U.S. companies have expressed a willingness to blacklist Harvard students who blamed Israel for the violence perpetrated by Hamas.
Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman said in a post on X that he had been asked by several CEOs if the university would release a list of the members of each of the Harvard organizations that supported the letter “so as to [e]nsure that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members.”
“If, in fact, their members support the letter they have released, the names of the signatories should be made public so their views are publicly known,” Mr. Ackman said.
Mr. Ackman’s comments received support from a number of business leaders.
“I would like to know so I know never to hire these people,” Jonathan Neman, CEO of restaurant chain Sweetgreen, said in an X post.
“I second this,” Jake Wurzak, CEO of DoveHill Capital Management, said in a reply to Mr. Ackman’s post.
“We are in as well,” said Michael Broukhim, the CEO of lifestyle firm FabFitFun.
Some of the student organizations that signed the letter include the Harvard Jews for Liberation, the Harvard Prison Divest Coalition, and the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee.
Several groups later backtracked. According to the student newspaper of Harvard University, The Harvard Crimson, the Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association, Harvard College Act on a Dream, Amnesty International at Harvard, and the Harvard Islamic Society have all backtracked on their support.
Another organization, the Harvard Undergraduate Ghungroo, released a statement on Instagram to “formally apologize,” for signing the letter and retract their signature.
“We would like to clarify that we stand in solidarity with both Israeli and Palestinian Victims and Families,” the statement said.
The students also “strongly” denounced and condemned the “massacre propagated by the terrorist organization Hamas.”
“We truly apologize for the insensitivity of the statement that was released recently.”
The PSC later amended the letter to hide the organizations who signed, citing safety concerns over ongoing harassment of students in those groups, even ones that graduated years ago and are no longer members.
Naveen Athrapully and Stephen Katte contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times