At least a dozen business executives have endorsed Bill Ackman’s call to deny hiring members of student groups at Harvard who signed on to a letter blaming Israel for Hamas’ deadly attack on Saturday that killed more than 1,200 people, including at least 22 Americans.
Jonathan Newman, the CEO of salad chain Sweetgreen, was among a group of business honchos who seconded Ackman in urging that the signatories of the letter circulated by the a coalition of 34 Harvard student groups who “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”, the New York Post reports.
“I would like to know so I know never to hire these people,” Newman wrote in response to Ackman’s post on X on Tuesday.
“Same,” David Duel, CEO of healthcare services firm EasyHealth, wrote in response to Newman.
The backlash and possible black-listing has led to a flurry of back-pedaling by four of the initial student organisations attached to the inflammatory statement — while board members of other groups have quit to distance themselves.
Late Tuesday, 17 other Harvard groups joined around 500 faculty and staff and 3,000 others in signing a counterstatement attacking the other groups’ letter as “completely wrong and deeply offensive,” according to the campus paper, the Harvard Crimson.
A third letter from nearly 160 faculty members also ripped Harvard’s response to the scandal, writing that it “can be seen as nothing less than condoning the mass murder of civilians based only on their nationality.”
Fears that some of the nation’s brightest young minds had doomed their futures led former Harvard President Larry Summers to caution against singling out students who were “naive and foolish” about what they were signing.
“I yield to no one in my revulsion at the statement apparently made on behalf of 30 plus @Harvard student group,” Summers posted Wednesday on X, the rebranded Twitter site. “But please everybody take a deep breath. 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.”
“This is not a time where it is constructive to vilify individuals and I am sorry that is happening,” he added.
The former Treasury Secretary had taken school administrators to task for failing to explicitly condemn Hamas and denounce the student letter on Monday.
On Tuesday, Ackman, the hedge fund billionaire and founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, posted an item on his X social media account demanding that his alma mater release a list of names of those who belong to the student groups who co-signed the controversial statement.
“I have been asked by a number of CEOs if Harvard would release a list of the members of each of the Harvard organisations that have issued the letter assigning sole responsibility for Hamas’ heinous acts to Israel, so as to insure that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members,” Ackman, who is married to Israeli-born MIT professor Neri Oxman, wrote on X.
“If, in fact, their members support the letter they have released, the names of the signatories should be made public so their views are publicly known.”
“Share the list, please. We’ll stay away,” Ale Resnik, the CEO of Belong, a rental housing start-up, replied on X.
Martin Varsavsky, a tech investor and entrepreneur, told Insider that he thought Ackman was “right.”
Michael McQuaid, the head of decentralised finance operations (DeFi) at blockchain firm Bloq, weighed in, writing: “I completely agree, and have been wondering the same the last couple of days if/when the names of these students would come out.”
Michael Broukhim, CEO of FabFitFun, pledged to Ackman: “We are in as well.”
Other executives who signalled their approval of Ackman’s post with an emoji of applause, a thumbs up, or a gesture of agreement include Stephen Ready, CEO of marketing firm Inspired; Hu Montague, founder and vice president of construction company Diligent; Art Levy, head of strategy at payments platform Brex; and Jake Wurzak, the CEO of hospitality group Dovehill Capital Management.
The Post has sought comment from the aforementioned executives.
Groups that have since recanted include Amnesty International at Harvard, Harvard College Act on a Dream, the Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association, the Harvard Islamic Society, and Harvard Undergraduate Ghungroo, according to the campus newspaper Harvard Crimson.
Danielle Mikaelian, a Harvard Law Student who sits on the board of a group that co-signed the letter, said she resigned due to the “egregious” nature of the statement.
“I am sorry for the pain this caused. My organisation did not have a formal process and I didn’t even see the statement until we had signed on,” Mikaelian wrote on her X account.
The pro-Hamas Harvard groups that signed the letter are African-American Resistance Organization; Bengali Association of Students at Harvard College; Harvard Act on a Dream; Harvard Arab Medical and Dental Student Association; Harvard Chan Muslim Student Association; Harvard Chan Students for Health Equity and Justice in Palestine; Harvard College Pakistan Student Association; Harvard Divinity School Muslim Association; Harvard Middle Eastern and North African Law Student Association; Harvard Graduate School of Education Islamic Society; Harvard Graduate Students for Palestine; Harvard Islamic Society; Harvard Law School Justice for Palestine; Harvard Divinity School Students for Justice in Palestine; Harvard Jews for Liberation; Harvard Kennedy School Bangladesh Caucus; Harvard Kennedy School Muslim Caucus; Harvard Kennedy School Muslim Women’s Caucus; Harvard Kennedy School Palestine Caucus; Harvard Muslim Law School Association; Harvard Pakistan Forum; Harvard Prison Divest Coalition; Harvard South Asian Law Students Association; Harvard South Asians for Forward-Thinking Advocacy and Research; Harvard TPS Coalition; Harvard Undergraduate Arab Women’s Collective; Harvard Undergraduate Ghungroo; Harvard Undergraduate Muslim Women’s Medical Alliance; Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Students Association; Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee; Middle East and North African Graduate School of Design Student Society; Neighbor Program Cambridge; Sikhs and Companions of Harvard Undergraduates; and Society of Arab Students.
“We, the undersigned student organisations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence, the letter states, adding: “The apartheid regime is the only one to blame. Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years.”
The letter has since been updated to remove the list of groups who signed it “for student safety.”
This article originally appeared in the New York Post and was reproduced with permission.