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CEOs Seek Blacklist After Harvard Groups' Anti-Israel Statement

CEOs seek blacklist after Harvard groups' anti-Israel statement. Top business leaders press Harvard to reveal student identities following a controversial letter.

Tyrese Griffin
Oct 12, 202312544 Shares192980 Views
In the wake of a controversial letter, CEOs seek blacklist after Harvard groups' anti-Israel statement.Billionaire hedge fund CEO Bill Ackman and several other high-profile business leaders are pressing Harvard University to reveal the identities of students from organizations that exclusively blamed Israel for the deadly attacks by Hamas.
The underlying intent is to blacklist these students, although some have since distanced themselves from the contentious letter.
“One should not be able to hide behind a corporate shield when issuing statements supporting the actions of terrorists,” said Ackman on X, formerly known as Twitter.
According to Ackman, if these members stand by the letter, the signatories' names “should be made public so their views are publicly known.” The Pershing Square Capital Management CEO's objective is to ensure his firm and others avoid employing students associated with the Harvard groups that endorsed the letter.
Amidst the controversy, some Harvard student groups have retracted their endorsements.
Several other business heads, including leaders of FabFitFun, EasyHealth, and Dovehill Capital Management, have supported Ackman's appeal.
Jonathan Neman, CEO of Sweetgreen, stated on X, saying:
I would like to know so I know never to hire these people.- Jonathan Neman, CEO of Sweetgreen
Both Neman and Ackman refrained from commenting further.

Concerns About Safety and Fairness

Larry Summers, the distinguished economist and former Harvard president, has cautioned against quick judgment. Summers highlighted the complexity of group endorsements, saying, "Many in these groups never saw the statement before it went out. In some cases, those approving did not understand exactly what they were approving.” He also expressed sympathy for those who might have been “naive and foolish,” urging the public not to vilify them.
Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe, after an initial agreement with Ackman, decided against joining the call for name publication.
Tribe conveyed in an email:
Naive and stupid as they may have been, I now think it would be an overreaction to penalize them permanently by publishing their names.- Laurence Tribe, Harvard Professor
Stephen Sullivan, CEO of, suggested that anger should be directed at administrators and educators rather than penalizing students.

Harvard Responds

Though Harvard University did not immediately provide an official statement, Harvard President Claudine Gay clarified that “no student group – not even 30 student groups – speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.”
The controversy was sparked by a joint statement from a coalition of Harvard student groups after the Hamas attacks, which led to over 1,000 Israeli and 14 American casualties. The statement from the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups read, “We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”
Jake Wurzak, CEO of Dovehill Capital Management, voiced his belief that the students should be named, stating, “Free Speech is paramount. Words have meaning and students shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind an institution.”

Students Withdraw Signatures

The Harvard Crimson revealed that at least five of the original 34 endorsers retracted their endorsements. Various reasons were cited, including miscommunication, lack of due diligence, or unawareness of the letter's content.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, while uncertain about disclosing student names, emphasized the importance of accountability. Greenblatt remarked, “This is what we learn to do in elementary school. It’s hard for me to understand why it’s complicated for people at Harvard University.”

Consequences Beyond Harvard

Elsewhere, a statement from the NYU Student Bar Association president led to immediate repercussions. The student faced a job offer retraction from law firm Winston & Strawn after claiming Israel's sole responsibility for the substantial loss of life.

Reflecting on Values

Harvard President Claudine Gay reiterated her stance against the "terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas,” condemning any form of inhumanity, regardless of individual perspectives on the region's conflict origins.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management underscored the importance of personal accountability, stating that "villains cannot be celebrated as heroes.”
Finally, the Anti-Defamation League, in light of a rising global antisemitism wave, has rallied CEOs to publicly oppose hate and commit to combating antisemitism. Companies such as Accenture, Adidas, and the NBA are among the signatories.
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