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Editorials

Harvard Must Remind the World: Money Donated Remains Money Well-Spent

The Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was renamed in honor of Kenneth C. Griffin '89 in 2023 following a $300 million unrestricted gift.
The Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was renamed in honor of Kenneth C. Griffin '89 in 2023 following a $300 million unrestricted gift. By Frank S. Zhou
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

After more than $500 million in giving, this past Tuesday, hedge fund billionaire and Harvard mega-donor Kenneth C. Griffin ’89 turned off the spigot.

Even if it loses Harvard hundreds of millions, Griffin’s decision to pause donations is less costly by far than the more fundamental problem it marks: Much of America — maybe even most — agrees with him.

To solve it, Harvard might be tempted to continue down the path of the past few months. Hide from controversy. Issue mealy-mouthed statements. Ignore inconvenient truths. Capitulate.

That can’t be. If donations continue to dry up, Harvard must not just tap-dance faster. It’s time instead for Harvard to tell the world — and, yes, its donors — what we see first-hand every day: Harvard is not perfect, but it is still very, very good.

In 2023 alone, researchers at Harvard made historic advances in quantum computing, cancer treatment, and astronomy. Harvard Economics professor Claudia D. Goldin became the first woman to receive an undivided Nobel Prize in economics. Harvard affiliates created a gene therapy that, like a miracle, restores hearing to deaf people.

As witnesses to these accomplishments — and to the daily contributions of the hard-working and decent students and staff that don’t make headlines — we have no doubt that Harvard remains a leader in higher education and a place where excellence abounds.

To be clear, our critics aren’t wrong to take aim. The last few months brought attention to serious faults at the University, some of its own creation. But misconceptions manufactured amid the media circus have grossly distorted the nation’s picture of the issues Griffin and others identify.

In this sense, making its case before the world requires that Harvard correct the record.

First, it’s plainly untrue that some shadowy DEI bureaucracy secretly governs the University. Don’t believe us? Just crack open the employment directories — they account for perhaps a few dozen of the thousands of administrators Harvard employs. Sure, the Harvard Corporation operates in the shadows, but its members — businesspeople and financiers, most — look a lot more like Griffin than a cabal of DEI bureaucrats.

As this Board has long recognized, there are serious free speech problems at Harvard that deserve serious attention — they just don’t come from DEI staffers that few of us will ever even meet.

Second, the vast majority of our peers do not harbor hate against Jewish people. Yes, some have used language that is hurtful and careless — but that is very, very different from deep-seated hatred. Few if any of our classmates are bigots.

We invite criticism of Harvard — we do it all the time! — but it’s important to correct those criticisms that don’t align with reality. The truth is, warts and all, we know money given to Harvard remains money well-spent.

What remains is for Harvard to remind the world.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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