Billionaire investor Bill Ackman, who led a campaign criticizing Harvard University reeling from turmoil over anti-Semitism, plagiarism and practices related to financial management, on Friday named four candidates on the Ivy board’s ballot. Attempts to add additional members failed. League school.
Another candidate backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also failed to make it onto Harvard’s Board of Overseers.
Harvard University President Claudine Gay was criticized last month for her handling of anti-Semitism on campus in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, and amid allegations that she plagiarized an earlier academic paper. After resigning, the two, who had been acting independently, supported the candidates. career.
Gay and Harvard denied the allegations. Gay, Harvard’s first black president, said in a statement at the time that it was in the Ivy League school’s best interest to step down given the controversy.
The Board of Overseers is Harvard University’s second-highest governing body and has the power to approve or reject the hiring of Harvard’s president. Each year, her five seats on the 30-member board are up for election, and only Harvard graduates are eligible to vote.
Some candidates said they were notified late Friday by Harvard University that they did not meet the necessary criteria to appear on the ballot. Zoe Bedell, one of the four candidates backed by Ackman, said she, Alec Williams, Logan Leslie and Julia Pollack each received between 2,300 and 2,700 votes. Stated. Sam Lessin, a candidate supported by Mr. Zuckerberg, said Harvard University told him that Mr. Zuckerberg received 2,901 votes. He needed 3,238 votes to secure a spot on the ballot.
A board vote will take place later this year.
The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the voting results. Ackman also did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Ackman attended Harvard University’s undergraduate and business school, has donated about $50 million to the university, and has been one of the most vocal critics of gay men and their leadership on campus. He told Reuters earlier this year that Harvard needed change and that the clean slate policy he supported would bring new blood to the board.
The Harvard Alumni Association interviews candidates and recommends them to the ballot, but those who wish to vote without the association’s approval face long odds, as the candidates endorsed by Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Ackman have attempted. It turns out.
In 2016, Harvard University increased the number of signatures required to fill out a ballot without association approval from 200 people eligible to vote in the previous election to 1%.
Harvard argues that keeping candidates in the public eye allows special interests to hijack the process, similar to political campaigns.
Lawrence Summers, a former Harvard University president and former U.S. Treasury secretary, spoke out in support of the anti-establishment candidate earlier this week. “Everyone who can should support the challenge to Harvard’s traditional leadership by Sam Lessin, Harvey Silvergrate, Alec Williams and others,” he said on social media platform X.
Mr. Zuckerberg, who dropped out of Harvard University in 2004 to start Facebook and pledged to donate $500 million to research into artificial intelligence, has given Mr. Lessin, an investor and former colleague at the social media giant, all the best. I supported it.
Ackman endorsed a group of four candidates called “Renew Harvard,” which seeks to defend free speech, protect students from bullying and harassment, and address financial mismanagement at the university.
The group noted that the university’s $50.7 billion endowment will return 2.9% in fiscal year 2023, well below the overall market return of nearly 20%. Ackman shared this criticism.
Renew Harvard’s nominees included Bedell, an assistant U.S. attorney; Leslie is an entrepreneur who buys and runs small businesses at Northern Rock. Mr. Williams is a former naval officer and investor. and Mr. Pollack, chief economist at ZipRecruiter.
“Given that we received so many votes in just three weeks, it is clear that our message resonated with the Harvard community. Therefore, we believe that these issues matter. We recognize that and we have no intention of abandoning it,” Bedell told Reuters.
Bedell said the Renew Harvard group plans to try again next year to be a write-in candidate on the ballot.
A number of other candidates also campaigned, including historian Todd Fine and lawyer Silvergrate.
The Oversight Board is not as powerful as at smaller Harvard, which directly oversees the university’s operations, but it still wields influence. The superintendent’s main tool is the so-called visiting process, which allows him to ask questions and make assessments of Harvard’s faculties and departments.
The last time this challenge was successful was in 2020 and 2021, when Harvard Forward, an alumni coalition that called for the university’s endowment to divest from fossil fuels, selected four candidates for the Board of Supervisors.
In 1989, dissident alumni petitioned Harvard University to divest its investment holdings in companies operating in South Africa during racial apartheid and to elect Archbishop Desmond Tutu to its board of directors. supported.