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Billionaire Megadonor Ken Griffin Says He Will Stop Donations to Harvard

Billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin '89 said he would pause donations to Harvard Tuesday.
Billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin '89 said he would pause donations to Harvard Tuesday. By Katherine L Borrazzo
By Emma H. Haidar and Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writers

Billionaire hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin ’89 said he is pausing donations to Harvard over its handling of antisemitism on campus, a move that comes less than one year after donating $300 million to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Griffin announced his decision to stop donating to Harvard during a keynote talk at a conference hosted by the Managed Funds Association in Miami. Griffin, however, left open the possibility that the University could win back his support.

“I’d like that to change and I have made that clear to members of the corporate board,” he said. “But until Harvard makes it very clear that they’re going to resume their role as educating young American men and women to be leaders, to be problem solvers, to take on difficult issues, I’m not interested in supporting the institution.”

He added that Harvard students were “whiny snowflakes” caught in a misguided ideology of oppressor and oppressed during his remarks.

“Will America’s elite university get back to their roots of educating American children – young adults – to be the future leaders of our country or are they going to maintain being lost in the wilderness of microaggressions, a DEI agenda that seems to have no real endgame, and just being loss in the wilderness?” Griffin asked.

A Harvard spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During his remarks, Griffin also said that his firms Citadel LLC and Citadel Securities, which recruit heavily from Harvard, would not hire any students who allegedly signed a controversial student group letter in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel — mirroring a pledge by billionaire hedge fund CEO Bill A. Ackman ’88 and other business leaders who have heavily criticized the University in recent months.

Griffin, whose donations to Harvard total more than $500 million, is the largest donor to date to publicly pledge not to give to Harvard over its handling of antisemitism and its historic leadership crisis last fall. His announcement is also a serious signal that donor backlash did not end with former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s resignation Jan. 2.

He becomes the second Harvard megadonor to pause donations as the University remains in crisis over its response to the Oct. 7 attacks Billionaire philanthropist Leonard V. Blavatnik, who made the largest single gift to Harvard Medical School in its history — a $200 million donation in 2018 — said late last year that he would also halt further donations to the University.

Griffin is arguably one of the most generous Harvard donors in the University’s modern history. The Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is named after him as well as Harvard College’s financial aid office. His decision to stop donating could have major financial implications for the University, which is already struggling to contain a wave of donor backlash.

Griffin’s public distancing from Harvard follows his private attempts to shape the University’s response to Oct. 7. He personally called Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 on Oct. 9, urging Harvard to come out in strong support of Israel. Griffin later called Gay’s controversial congressional testimony in early December “heartbreaking.”

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at emma.haidar@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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Central AdministrationUniversity FinancesFront FeatureIsrael PalestineLeadership Crisis