NEW DELHI: The Wexner Foundation has decided to sever its ties with Harvard and the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) after 34 years of collaboration, citing the University’s inadequate response to the Hamas assault on Israel as a reason.
The foundation’s president Elka Abrahamson, director general Ra’anan Avital, and chairmen Abigail S Wexner and Leslie H Wexner expressed their disappointment with University President Claudine Gay’s “weak and ambiguous” reaction to a joint statement by over 30 Harvard student groups that blamed Israel for the ongoing conflict in a letter to the Board of Overseers, Harvard’s second-highest governing body, on Monday.

“We are stunned and sickened by the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stance against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians,” wrote the leadership.

The Wexner Foundation made significant contributions to HKS and supported 10 fellows each year to finish the school’s one-year Master in Public Administration program through its Wexner Israel Fellowship. The fellowship, which will be discontinued, aimed to “equip Israel’s future public leaders with advanced leadership and public management skills,” according to the foundation’s website. More than 280 Israeli public officials have taken part in the fellowship.
HKS spokesperson Sofiya Cabalquinto said in an email that Gay and HKS Dean Douglas W Elmendorf “clearly stated our opposition to the terrorist acts committed by Hamas” in statements last week.
“We thank the Wexner Foundation for its long-standing support of student scholarships,” Cabalquinto said.

Explained: Why has the Israel-Hamas war split Harvard

The letter said that the current cohort of Wexner Israel Fellows will be the last after 34 years of partnership with the University, adding that over the years, the fellows have been “increasingly isolated” and their voices “silenced.”
Leslie Wexner, the co-founder of the Wexner Foundation and the founder of Bath and Body Works, gave more than $42 million to the Kennedy School before 2012. One of the school’s six main buildings is named after him.
The Wexner Foundation’s move to end its relationship with HKS is the latest criticism of the University over its response to the invasion and the subsequent student statements. Harvard has faced severe backlash from political leaders and top scholars over its delayed response and initial failure to explicitly condemn Hamas, a terrorist organization designated by the US.
Israeli billionaires Idan and Batia Ofer have recently resigned from the Kennedy School’s executive board, citing their dissatisfaction with the University’s response to Hamas’ attack on Israel. The couple expressed their loss of faith in the University’s leadership and stated that they could no longer support Harvard and its committees in good conscience.
Watch Harvard University Controversy: Students’ names and photos displayed on billboards for anti-Israel stance

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