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Business News/ News / World/  Bill Ackman won't hire Harvard students who blame Israel for war with Hamas: ‘I support free speech, but…’

Bill Ackman won't hire Harvard students who blame Israel for war with Hamas: ‘I support free speech, but…’

Bill Ackman defended stance on not hiring 'pro-Hamas' Harvard students and said he objects to students' anonymous statement blaming Israel for terrorist acts. The billionaire hedge fund manager called for release of names of students who support controversial letter

Bill Ackman, chief executive officer and portfolio manager at Pershing Square Capital Management, (REUTERS)Premium
Bill Ackman, chief executive officer and portfolio manager at Pershing Square Capital Management, (REUTERS)

Harvard University found themselves in the midst of criticism and backlash after a letter signed by 30 student groups at the prestigious university lay blame on Israel for the ongoing war between Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas fighters from Gaza. The “events did not occur in a vacuum," the students wrote, which ignited a controversy that has drawn in the likes of investor Bill Ackman.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman stated that he would not be intent on hiring ‘pro-Hamas Harvard University students’. This incurred backlash when Ackman defended his position on the hiring stance and said that he isn’t against free speech but against the students doing so anonymously and by leveraging the university’s brand.

Bill Ackman — a Harvard alum — said in a post on X that he’s been asked if the university would release a list of the members of the groups that issued the student letter so that employers can avoid hiring them.

“I am 100% in support of free speech. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do however object to students putting out a statement holding Israel ‘entirely responsible’ for terrorists’ heinous and despicable acts, but doing so anonymously under a corporate veil while leveraging the @Harvard brand," tweeted the founder of Pershing Square Holdings.

“One should not be able to hide behind a corporate shield when issuing statements supporting the actions of terrorists," Ackman said.

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Ackman had earlier commented on Harvard University’s student organisations and their letter and said that he had been asked by a number of CEOs, whether the university would release the member list of these student organisations, “so as to insure (sic) that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members".

He added, “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."

Senior journalist and author Mehdi Hasan questioned Ackman on this call to shame and punish the students for taking a stand that Ackman dislikes.

He posted, “Hedge fund guy who has pretended in the past to care about free speech now wants to name, shame, and punish college students for expressing views he dislikes and finds offensive. But sure, this isn’t ‘cancel culture’. This isn’t straight-up McCarthyism *shrugging emoji*".

In response to Hasan, Ackman tweeted that he was in favour of free speech but not in favour of anonymous solidarity that also leverages a brand.

Ackman added that members of various student groups have already come forward, and announced their resignation, stating that they did not approve of the public letter.

“There is nothing wrong with criticising Israel. That is the essence of free speech. But you shouldn’t hide behind a Harvard branded corporation while doing so anonymously," he reiterated, for good measure.

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Published: 11 Oct 2023, 09:27 PM IST
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