Tuesday 7 November 2023

‘They Don’t Work For You:’ Billionare Hedge Fund Manager Bill Ackman Tears Into Harvard’s DEI Program

 Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and Harvard alumnus admitted ignorance toward his old university’s so-called diverse and inclusive organizational framework on Monday by criticizing the Ivy League’s efforts as anything but inclusive for all marginalized groups.

Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square, tore into his alma mater’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program during a phone interview with CNBC. He said after reviewing the initiative it shows favor to specific groups while excluding certain demographics such as Asians or the Jewish community.

“I always thought DEI was for all marginalized groups,” Ackman said. “Okay, my ignorance.”

“If you’re an Asian student that is a victim of prejudice at Harvard, you don’t contact Harvard’s DEI office,” he added. “They don’t work for you, and that is really, really wrong.”

Ackman further suggested that conservative students at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus have fallen under the definition of the “most marginalized group” at Harvard University since 2018.

DEI efforts have been launched in academic institutions and other major American organizations nationwide in recent years to essentially reduce the level of so-called “microaggressions” and biases in such environments while requiring more diversity in the selection or hiring process.

But those efforts have faced backlash as at least 30 states have considered passing legislation to defund DEI programs in public universities and state agencies. Meanwhile, left and right-leaning ideologues have expressed grievances toward the initiative, saying either little progress has been made or it only hurts rather than helps institutions advance.

Ackman suggested the program should focus on protecting historically marginalized minority groups from “a tyranny of the majority.”

“That’s what DEI — in my mind — should be about,” Ackman added. “Those people are at risk of being taken advantage of — of being harmed, of being emotionally harmed.”

Ackman’s latest remarks follow his criticisms against Harvard University President Claudine Gay in a lengthy letter, where he accused her of creating an environment where anti-Semitism could thrive and Jewish students attacked by pro-Hamas activists.

He attributed a portion of the problem to the University’s DEI office, which Ackman said its statement made clear that it “does not support Jewish, Asian and non-LGBTQIA White students” and urged her to take immediate action to reduce anti-Semitism on campus following the Hamas terrorist against Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip on October 7.

“In other words, Jews and others who are not on the above list are not welcome to join,” Ackman wrote in his letter to Gay. “When antisemitism is widely prevalent on campus, and the DEI office – which ‘views diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as the pathway to achieving inclusive excellence and fostering a campus culture where everyone can thrive’ – does not welcome Jewish students, we have a serious problem.”

“It is abundantly clear that the campus culture that is being fostered at Harvard today is not one where everyone is included, feels a sense of belonging, welcomes diversity, or is a place where “everyone can thrive,” he added.

Gay, who took the helm as Harvard’s president only four months ago, reportedly condemned the brutal attack by Hamas and has since appointed a team to combat the growing antisemitic problem on campus.

“As we grapple with this resurgence of bigotry, I want to make one thing absolutely clear: Antisemitism has no place at Harvard,” Gay said during remarks given at the Harvard Hillel Shabbat Dinner on October 27.

“As President, I am committed to tackling this pernicious hatred with the urgency it demands. Antisemitism has a very long and shameful history at Harvard,” she added. “For years, this University has done too little to confront its continuing presence. No longer.”

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