The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will not relocate a Feb. 18 fundraising event hosted at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, but it will “avoid controversial venues that may distract from our focus on cancer care and research” in the future.
In a statement issued Thursday morning, President of Dana-Farber Laurie H. Glimcher and Board of Trustees Chairman Joshua Bekenstein responded to concerns raised by Harvard Medical School students about the location of the event.
Last week, thousands of people signed a petition calling on Dana-Farber to relocate this year’s fundraiser because of Trump’s executive order barring immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. At least four Harvard affiliates have not been able to enter the United States because of the order.
In the statement, the Dana-Farber leaders thanked patients, students and faculty for “their respectful and constructive concern.” Calling the controversy a “lightning rod,” Glimcher and Bekenstein wrote that cancelling the event “would also be seen as a political statement.”
“Our decision last year to continue to rent that facility for this long-standing fundraiser was never meant to be, and does not now intend to be, any type of political statement or endorsement of any political figure or policy position,” Glimcher and Bekenstein wrote.
Since 2011, Dana-Farber has paid the Trump Mar-a-Lago resort $150,000 each year to host its “Discovery Celebration” fundraiser in Florida. This year, the event is expected to raise $1,400,000, according to the science news site STAT.
While the petition organizers wrote in a statement that they were “happy” that Dana-Farber will relocate future events, they maintained that they were disappointed with Dana-Farber’s decision to host the fundraiser at Trump’s resort this year.
“Dana-Farber does not acknowledge the moral and ethical issues at stake with their decision to conduct business with Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort,” the organizers wrote.
Reiterating their wish to relocate, not cancel, the fundraiser, organizers noted that this will be the second Dana-Farber fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago since Trump’s first call for a “Muslim Ban” in December 2015.
“We urge them to consider what message they send when they say that their selection of this fundraiser venue, and their resistance to relocating it, is not a political act,” they wrote.
The statement announced that medical school students will hold a rally Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Harvard Medical School Quad to “reflect publicly” on the Dana-Farber controversy and Trump’s executive order.
—Staff writer Alexis J. Ross can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @aross125.
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