How the power of universities' biggest donors shifts tides

Recent events have shown that donors can influence the highest levels of a university's governance

The entrance to the University of Pennsylvania
The entrance to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia
(Image credit: Michelle Gustafson / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The president of the University of Pennsylvania, Liz Magill, resigned last weekend amid a slew of criticism over her responses during a congressional hearing about antisemitism on college campuses. Significant anger was also lobbied at the inaction of Harvard University's president, Claudine Gay, who joined Magill during the hearing.

Backlash over her congressional testimony may have been the crux for Magill's resignation, but there was another major element at play: Wealthy donors, alumni and benefactors seemingly played a large role in ousting Magill by pulling their dollars from Penn. This was led by "a largely Jewish group of prominent alumni who felt the school wasn’t adequately protecting Jewish students" in the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas war, The Wall Street Journal reported. These donors threatened to "withhold millions of dollars if the leadership stayed in place" — a strategy that ended up working. 

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us