Colleges kowtow to protesters but are met with blowback from donors

Even schools that have not come to an agreement with protesters have lost donors. 

Published: May 5, 2024 10:20pm

Colleges that kowtow to anti-Israel protest encampments are in turn being kicked to the curb by major donors for it. 

At least half a dozen colleges and universities have come to an agreement with anti-Israel protesters on campus over the past week, while other schools are not taking action to stop the illegal encampments. While the pro-Palestinian demonstrators celebrated the decisions as victories, donors are less than happy.

One of the most notable schools to reach an agreement with demonstrators is Brown University, where administrators last week committed to allowing students to speak with the school's investment advisory committee about divesting from Israel-linked companies before holding a vote on the matter. The agreement at Brown also stated that no one who participated in the Gaza Solidarity Encampment would face retaliation over the demonstration, and that students who participated would at worst be subjected to an Administrative Review Meeting, but they would not be at risk of being suspended or expelled. 

Billionaire real estate mogul Barry Sternlicht, who has previously donated more than $20 million to Brown, said he "paused" donations to the school because he found the agreement with demonstrators "unconscionable."

Northwestern University went even further by agreeing to provide the "full cost of attendance for five Palestinian undergraduates to attend Northwestern for the duration of their undergraduate careers" and agreeing to fund two visiting Palestinian faculty members per year for two years. The school also agreed to re-establish an investment advisory committee and provide a building for Arab and Muslim students. The school also agreed to "allow one aid tent" to remain on campus and to "advise employers not to rescind job offers for students engaging" in campus protests. 

While it is unclear whether any big-name donors have pulled funds from Northwestern, the school's Jewish center, known as the Hillel, said on Facebook that it has received many questions from the community about how to support students at this time. The center advised the public to contact the university officials directly and to donate for the center's activities.  

Meanwhile, Sarah van Loon, Regional Director of American Jewish Committee Chicago, called Northwestern's decision "cowardly" and said: "In order to avoid exhibiting real leadership by enforcing its own recently amended policies, Northwestern succumbed to the demands of a mob, which has intimidated Jewish students, espoused antisemitic, hate-filled speech, and whose members have celebrated Hamas terrorists."

Rutgers University also bent to protesters' demands by offering "full amnesty" to all student protesters and agreeing to "accept at least 10 displaced Gazan students to study at Rutgers University on scholarship," among other things.

Some donors, such as Marvin and Eva Schlanger, who have given more than $130,000 to the New Jersey flagship school, decided to stop donating before the school made an agreement with protesters. 

Other schools that have reached agreements with demonstrators include the University of Minnesota, the University of Vermont and Evergreen State College in Washington.

Meanwhile, the encampments have been allowed to remain at other schools, resulting in donors withholding money. 

For example, the encampment at the University of Pennsylvania has lasted for more than a week, and demonstrators continued to camp for days after multiple major donors criticized the protest and decided to halt donations, per The Daily Pennsylvanian

Even schools that have not come to an agreement with protesters, such as Columbia University in New York City, have lost donors. 

The dried up funding dollars coincides with protests that have cost colleges millions of dollars in physical damages. 

Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Mo., who led a letter with other members of Congress calling for donors to stop supporting Columbia, said that the threat is not limited to private donors but also to public funding being pulled. 

"There's so much lacking accountability on these college campuses and federal spending needs to be pulled back," he told the "John Solomon Reports Podcast" last week.

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