Donor publicly withdraws support, alumni raise concerns in wake of alleged anti-Israel event at Yale
In an email to those involved in coordinating fundraising for the University, Yale Alumni Fund managing director wrote about a “growing number of alumni” voicing concerns following a controversial Nov. 6 panel discussion and ensuing opinion column in the Wall Street Journal. At least one alumnus has decided to halt his annual donations — which he described as “minor” — to the University.
Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer
Ongoing tensions between alumni and donors at universities across the country — which have emerged in response to the Israel-Hamas war — have made their way to New Haven.
The News obtained an email addressed to chairs and agents of Yale College and the Graduate School on Nov. 9 — those who coordinate alumni funding — in which Jocelyn Kane, managing director of Yale Alumni Fund and director of leadership giving, wrote that the Alumni Fund has heard concerns from a “growing number of alumni” about a Nov. 6 panel discussion on campus and an associated opinion column published in the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 8.
In addition, Nick Gaede Jr. ’61 told the News he has pulled his donations to the University — a decision he explained in a Nov. 12 letter in the Wall Street Journal, written in response to the same panel discussion and opinion column.
The discussion, titled “Gaza Under Siege,” was held at Linsly-Chittenden Hall and co-sponsored by the American Studies, Anthropology and Religious Studies departments; the programs in Ethnicity, Race and Migration and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies; the Center for Middle East Studies; the Black Feminist Collective; the Ethnography Hub; the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund; and Yalies4Palestine.
The event was moderated by Lisa Lowe — a professor of American Studies and of Ethnicity, Race, & Migration — and Erica Edwards, a professor of English and of African American Studies. The event also featured Barnard College professor of anthropology Nadia Abu El-Haj and Tufts University professor of anthropology and of studies in race, colonialism and diaspora Amahl Bishara.
The next day, on Nov. 7, two students — who said they had not registered for the event — published an opinion column in the Wall Street Journal titled “Jewish Students Meet Hostility at Yale.” They claimed that they were refused entry while others, also not registered, were waved in to what the authors described as an “anti-Israel event.” On Nov. 8, the University issued a statement on the event, which said that the room reached capacity before the event began, leaving some students listening in from outside the room.
The statement also said that the faculty who invited outside speakers were allowed to do so under the University’s policies on academic freedom and free expression. The University added that the event required pre-registrations and that “a small number of people” listened to the event speakers from the hallway “due to space constraints.”
“The event began with a reiteration of Yale’s freedom of expression policies and a request that no filming or photography take place,” the statement reads. “Administrators were present to ensure that the event proceeded in a way consistent with the university’s policies which allowed for it to take place without disruption. Opinions and positions from people of all backgrounds were expressed respectfully during the program.”
In her Nov. 9 email to alumni funding coordinators, Kane referred recipients to a webpage listing the University’s statement, among other statements that it has made in response to the Israel-Hamas war.
Gaede recently pulled his donations over concerns of antisemitism at Yale raised in last week’s student-penned Wall Street Journal piece. In a collection of three letters published in the Journal, Gaede wrote of his experiences with antisemitism while at Yale, saying that after reading last week’s column, “not much has changed” and he would discontinue what he called “minor” annual gifts to the University.
It remains unclear whether there are other donors who have withdrawn their funding to the University, and Kane did not respond to the News’ requests for comment.
“I have been a little bit unhappy over the last several years about the direction I thought Yale was going in,” Gaede said. “This op-ed that was in the Wall Street Journal last week caught my attention, and I took that as evidencing some anti-semitic problems at Yale.”
In an interview with the News on Nov. 3, Salovey said that he believes alumni, government officials and donors have seen the University’s “commitment to free expression” and “commitment to educating on the issue” in light of the ongoing war in the Middle East.
“I have spoken with many members of the community in groups and individually to discuss the University’s focus on the safety and well-being of those on campus, to underscore the importance of open and civil dialogue, and to make clear that antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hatred toward Palestinians and Israelis have no place at Yale,” Salovey wrote in a Nov. 13 email to the News, in response to the alumni concerns that Kane described. “I am heartened that through my conversations with faculty, students, staff, and alumni, including donors, it is clear these are values we share.”
Salovey’s remarks come amid growing pressure from alumni and donors at institutions across the country, including Harvard University, New York University, Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania.
At Penn, the pressure began when the school’s Board of Advisors Chair Marc Rowan called on Penn’s President Liz Magill ’88 and Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok to step down — prompting other prominent donors, including the creator of “Law and Order” Dick Wolf to withdraw their funding.
On Nov. 3 — the week before the panel event and associated op-ed — Salovey told the News that the University had not experienced any donor pressure, adding that “people can see that our students are inclined to behave civilly toward each other, that our students are trying to listen to each other.”
The Yale Alumni Fund was founded in 1890 as an alumni organization independent of the University but has been managed by the Office of Development since 1992.