(CNN) — More than 1,600 Harvard University alumni have announced they will freeze donations to the school until it takes urgent action to address anti-Semitism on campus. Hamas.
High profile billionaire alumni As Pershing Square founder Bill Ackman and former Victoria’s Secret CEO Leslie Wexner have already said, Harvard faces an exodus of donors if it doesn’t act to fix the problem, but the largest group of alumni to date — most of whom aren’t millionaires — are threatening to withdraw their donations.
“At Harvard College, we have never felt that terrorism against civilians demanded immediate and unequivocal condemnation,” wrote members of the Harvard College Jewish Alumni Association (HCJAA). An open letter President Claudine Kay and Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana. “We never thought we had to defend the recognition of our own humanity.”
The HCJAA was formed last month following the university’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. Organizers say it’s the first Jewish alumni association in the university’s history.
The group has called on Harvard to recognize its alumni association as a legitimate special interest group and to share and officially adopt concrete plans to ensure the safety of Jewish students on campus. Definition of Antisemitism International Holocaust Remembrance Coalition.
“We now have a movement of more than 1,600 alumni calling for meaningful reforms on campus to ensure all students are safe,” HCJAA co-founder Rebecca Claire Brooks told CNN.
“This is a broad and growing interdisciplinary movement of alumni from different fields and industries. Yes, some of them are very influential donors and others are modest donors. But we are speaking with one voice in response to this moment,” he said.
Harvard’s president wrote a letter to members of the university community on Thursday. “Harvard rejects all forms of hate, and we are committed to standing up against it,” he wrote. “I reiterate what I and other Harvard leaders have said before: Anti-Semitism has no place at Harvard.”
The school, he said, “has begun the process of examining how anti-Semitism manifests itself in our society” and will “implement a robust education and training program for students, faculty and staff on anti-Semitism in general and at Harvard in particular.” .”
The school is “trying to identify external partnerships that will allow Harvard to learn and work with others on our strategy,” he said.
Harvard officials referred to Kay’s letter when contacted for comment.
The impact of philanthropy
Philanthropy is Harvard’s main source of income: it accounted for 45% of the US$5.8 billion it earned last year. Philanthropic donations accounted for 9% of the university’s operating budget last year and 36% of its $51 billion endowment accumulated over decades.
According to the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), while most universities come from large donors, smaller gifts from alumni are becoming an important source of higher education funding. About 95% of donations received by universities in 2022 were less than US$5,000.
According to CASE, universities like to boast large numbers of donations to show they have an engaged alumni base. While larger gifts are often restricted to specific purposes, such as a new building or facility, universities have more discretion over how to use smaller gifts.
“I wanted people, regardless of their income, to express their disappointment, dissatisfaction, or heartbreak with college,” Brooks says. “This is an egalitarian grassroots movement where any donor, regardless of religion, age, or the amount they regularly give, can participate in a commitment to send a clear signal that this kind of toxic culture on campus harms everyone.”
Brooks told CNN that she has been contacted by several groups at other universities about starting similar campaigns on their own campuses.
More than 300 Cooper Union alumni have threatened to withhold their donations in response to the New York school’s recent anti-Israel protests. In a letter to the school earlier this month, they accused the administration of being “more concerned with avoiding corruption than protecting its Jewish students.”
The Cooper Union did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn contributed to this report.