A recent surge of criticism has struck university leaders at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Facing reports of rising antisemitism on their campuses, the responses of these leaders have drawn fire from a group of high-profile billionaires who are threatening to withhold donations. These billionaires, who include hedge fund managers, CEOs, and the Chairmen of powerful corporations, represent some of today’s richest and most influential people. They are calling for the school presidents to resign.

Bill Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, has taken aim at Harvard President Claudine Gay, demanding that she “resign in disgrace.” Ackman has previously demanded that Harvard University release the names of students who signed a statement that placed blame for Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. He also wanted Harvard officials to suspend a group of students that he claimed acted in violence toward a Jewish student at a pro-Palestine protest, an event that the protest’s organizers have said did not occur.

Ackman has been joined in his criticism by the most wealthy person in the world, Elon Musk, best known for his ownership of SpaceX, Tesla, and X. Musk has also targeted the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and MIT, Liz Magill and Sally Kornbluth.

Ronald Lauder, the son of the famed Estee Lauder and current chairman of Clinique Laboratories, has threatened to stop donations to the University of Pennsylvania. He targeted president Liz Magill and the university board chair, Scott Bok, pointing to a Palestine Writes Literature Festival held on campus. The festival had triggered backlash at the time, part of larger claims that the university was promoting antisemitism on campus.

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Marc Rowan, the CEO of Apollo Global Management, targeted the same pro-Palestine festival in an op-ed published in The Free Press. He called for other donors to join them in ceasing donations.

Columbia University came under fire from Leon Cooperman, the successful hedge fund manager. The grievance focused on the university’s Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, Joseph Massad, who described the Hamas attack on Israel as “awesome” in an article published on October 8. An online petition signed by nearly 79,000 people also called on Massad to resign.

Henry Swieca, a graduate of Columbia University and founder of Talpion Fund Management, has objected to rhetoric used in pro-Palestinian protests on campus. Swieca has claimed that “blatantly anti-Jewish” professors and student groups have been allowed to operate and protest without pushback. He has accused the university’s leaders of cowardice and said that the institution’s reputation may be beyond repair.

Harvard has announced that Claudine Gay will remain president of the university, calling her the right leader to help the community heal. MIT president Sally Kornbluth has also faced no serious repercussions and continues in her position. Columbia University continues to support Professor Joseph Massad despite a petition of almost 50,000 signatures calling for his removal.

While the University of Pennsylvania initially backed Liz Magill and Scott Bok against outside criticism, the two resigned within hours of one another on December 12.