Bill Ackman, In Latest Salvo Against Ivy League, Says Harvard President Is Ignoring the Brutality of Hamas Attacks
The Ivy League-educated billionaire hedge fund manager has made it his mission to tackle antisemitism on college campuses since the October 7 war began.
The billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman is ramping up his public pressure campaign on Ivy League schools, specifically Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay, after she declined to attend a viewing of footage from the October 7 attack in southern Israel. Mr. Ackman is a leading figure among wealthy Americans who are calling for a divestment from their prestigious alma maters.
On Monday, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, and the president of Harvard Chabad, Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, will host a viewing of footage taken by Hamas terrorists as they attacked a music festival and small communities in southern Israel. Mr. Ackman will be in attendance, and has called on Ms. Gay to do the same.
“I encourage the Harvard President, the Harvard administration, the faculty, and students to attend,” Mr. Ackman wrote on X last week. “In life, there are moments where we are called upon to bear witness and deeply contemplate our history, our humanity, and the implications for our future. This is one of them.”
Ms. Gay, though, has told Chabad that she will not attend due to a congressional hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning where she will answer questions about the rise of antisemitism on college campuses. She will appear alongside the presidents of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania.
When Ms. Gay’s staff told Rabbi Zarchi that she cannot attend the Monday night screening because of her congressional commitments, Mr. Ackman said she was falling short of her leadership requirements.
“I note that the President’s congressional testimony is the day after the December 4th showing of the film, i.e., Tuesday, December 5th at 10:15am,” Mr. Ackman wrote on X on Friday. “I reached out to Pres. Gay an hour or so after her chief of staff’s email, and strongly encouraged her to see the film because, among other reasons, I believe it would be very helpful to her and to Harvard to tell the Congress that she had seen it with her own eyes.”
Mr. Ackman then reached out to Ms. Gay personally to offer his own private jet and a meal on Monday night so that she could fly directly from the screening to the nation’s capital before her testimony. She declined.
“I can’t imagine anything more important for the Harvard President to do now than to bear witness to the atrocities before testifying about the Hamas protests and antisemitism on campus,” he said of her declination. “President Gay’s failed leadership in managing the impact of October 7th on campus in large part explains why antisemitism has exploded at Harvard. And she is also setting a bad example for other universities and institutions.”
The situation at Harvard has grown so intense that the Department of Education’s office of civil rights has opened an investigation into the university to determine “whether the University failed to respond to alleged harassment of students based on their national origin (shared Jewish ancestry and/or Israeli) in a manner consistent with the requirements of Title VI.”
Mr. Ackman, who received both his undergraduate and masters degrees from Harvard, was one of the first prominent alumni to raise his concerns about antisemitism on campus. In early November, he wrote a lengthy open letter online to say “that the situation at Harvard is dire and getting worse, much worse than I had realized. … Jewish students are being bullied, physically intimidated, spat on, and in several widely-disseminated videos of one such incident, physically assaulted.”
He also worked with other powerful Harvard alumni to create a kind of “black list” for Harvard students who had signed on to an antisemitic letter that placed blame for the October 7 attack on Israel.