Billionaire Ackman Calls On Harvard, MIT, Penn Presidents To ‘Resign In Disgrace’—Musk, Republicans Pile On


Billionaire hedge fund manager and Harvard alumnus Bill Ackman called on the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to resign “in disgrace” Tuesday night—getting quick backing from Elon Musk—after the academic leaders testified at a contentious congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.

Key Facts

In a post on X, Ackman, the CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, accused Harvard President Claudine Gay, MIT President Sally Kornbluth and Penn President Liz Magill of exhibiting “profound educational, moral and ethical failures that pervade certain of our elite educational institutions due in large part to their failed leadership.”

Ackman linked to a video of conservative Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who asked in Tuesday’s hearing if “calling for the genocide” of Jewish people violates the three universities’ code of conduct or policies on bullying and harassment.

In her testimony, Gay responded that such speech can violate the Ivy League’s code of conduct “depending on the context” if the speech is “targeted at an individual.”

Kornbluth said such speech on campus would be “investigated as harassment if pervasive and severe,” while Magill said “if the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment,” adding that labeling speech as harassment or bullying is a “context-dependent decision.”

Ackman, who has repeatedly criticized Harvard leadership and called for some student protesters to be suspended amid rising tensions on campus following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip, argued in his post on X that antisemitism has “exploded on campus and around the world” because “of leaders like Presidents Gay, Magill and Kornbluth who believe genocide depends on the context.”

Forbes has reached out to Gay, Kornbluth and Magill for comment.


Stefanik, in her line of questioning at Tuesday’s hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, also called for Gay’s resignation, arguing the university has been “corrupted by its apparent desperation to appease the far-left.” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), in a post on X Wednesday morning, called on the presidents of all three universities to resign, citing their answers to Stefanik’s question, and arguing their responses were “disgusting.”

Surprising Fact

Ackman’s social media post Tuesday night was re-posted early Wednesday morning by billionaire SpaceX, Tesla and X owner Elon Musk, who responded: “Calling for the genocide [death] of anyone obviously constitutes harassment.” Musk, whose tumultuous one-year tenure at the helm of X has garnered criticism from advertisers over concerns around rising hate speech on the platform, later responded in the thread, saying he purchased the site formerly known as Twitter to “stop the extinctionists.” Musk has also faced condemnation—including from the White House—after he endorsed a post critics have labeled antisemitic, prompting an exodus of major advertisers from the platform over fears of rising antisemitism. Musk apologized for the post at the New York Times DealBook Summit last week, though the billionaire also accused companies that pulled ads from the site of “blackmailing” him with money.

Key Background

College campuses have become a focal point in growing debate over Israel’s war with Hamas, with university donors and officials heavily criticizing students for protests and speech that critics call antisemitic. A group of Harvard students in October released a statement heavily critical of Israel, blaming the Israeli government for Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. In response, Ackman—and several other corporate executives—pleaded for university officials to release the names of the students who signed in an effort not to “inadvertently hire any of their members.” Ackman has also been critical of Gay, who released a statement saying the school “embraces a commitment to free expression,” including some “views that many of us find objectionable.” Following a student-led protest critical of Israel last month, Ackman called for some students involved to be suspended, posting a video of the demonstration in which a student was allegedly attacked by protest marshalls (protest organizers told Forbes that student was never physically touched). On Sunday, Ackman posted a nearly 1,700-word letter to Gay, asking her to “address the antisemitism that has exploded on campus.”

Forbes Valuation

We estimate Ackman’s net worth at roughly $3.8 billion, making the hedge fund manager the world’s 780th richest person.

Further Reading

Harvard President Admits Spike In Campus Antisemitism At House Hearing (Forbes)

Billionaire Ackman Doubles Down On Harvard Criticism Over Pro-Palestinian Protests: ‘Antisemitism Exploded On Campus’ (Forbes)

Billionaire Ackman, Others Pledge They Won’t Hire Harvard Students Who Signed Letter Blaming Israel For Hamas Attack (Forbes)

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