Powerful donors managed to push out Harvard’s Claudine Gay. But at what cost?

Powerful donors managed to push out Harvard’s Claudine Gay. But at what cost?

Robert Reich writes:

[For major donors] to use their influence to force the ouster of these university presidents is an abuse of power. It sets a dangerous precedent of mega-donor intrusion into university life.

It endangers the autonomy of America’s universities to determine for themselves how to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and hateful speech.

The core problem is that one of the major jobs of today’s university presidents is to solicit money.

Even at Harvard, whose endowment dwarfs all others, major donors are courted – their names carved into marble pediments, professorships named after them, university honors bestowed on them.

For the same reason, boards of trustees like the Harvard Corporation are packed with wealthy donors. They’re not supposed to have any say over the day-to-day operations of the universities they oversee, although they routinely veto candidates for university presidents harboring views they find offensive.

Yet not until now have major donors so brazenly used their financial influence to hound presidents out of office for failing to come out as clearly as the donors would like on an issue of campus speech or expression.

As a Jew, I also cannot help but worry that the actions of these donors – many of them Jewish, many from Wall Street – could fuel the very antisemitism they claim to oppose, based on the age-old stereotype of wealthy Jewish bankers controlling the world.

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