Stanford Slammed by Alumni, Students for Hamas Response

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(Bloomberg) — Stanford University leadership is coming under increasing criticism for failing to clearly condemn the Hamas attacks on Israel and recent acts of antisemitism on campus.

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More than 1,400 people have so far put their names to an open letter sent to interim President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez. The list includes Menlo Ventures partner Shawn Carolan and tech luminaries from Latin America, including David Velez and Marcos Galperin.

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“As students, graduates, faculty and staff of the university, we have proudly represented Stanford across the globe as an inclusive institution that fosters community, excellence and leadership,” the letter read. “Your failure in this case has shaken our belief in Stanford leadership’s moral resolve and capacity to adhere to these values and guide its community in their light during our darkest hours.”

College campuses across the US have been torn by divisions over free speech, academic freedom and claims of antisemitism since the Oct. 7 assault on Israel and its response in Gaza. The letter to Stanford cited several incidents on campus, such as messages of “hatred and antisemitism” displayed on banners and in chalk writing, and the removal of posters with the images of people who were abducted during the attack.

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At the University of Pennsylvania, a group of donors and alumni have demanded that the school’s leadership quit. At Harvard, billionaire donors have pulled their support, while Harvard Business School alumni Mitt Romney and hedge fund manager Seth Klarman led an open letter accusing the school of ignoring the safety of Jewish students amid pro-Palestinian protests on campus. Investor Leon Cooperman has said he’ll no longer give to Columbia University because of anti-Israel protests.

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The Stanford letter called on Saller and Martinez to unequivocally condemn antisemitism and the Hamas attack, and to take concrete actions to ensure the safety of Jewish and Israeli students, faculty and staff. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union.

Stanford didn’t reply to a request for comment. The university’s leadership issued a statement Oct. 11 condemning “all terrorism and mass atrocities. This includes the deliberate attack on civilians this weekend by Hamas.”

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A non-faculty instructor at the school in Palo Alto, California, was also suspended this month for allegedly singling out students based on their backgrounds while discussing events in Israel.

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The letter said that Stanford’s actions now are inconsistent with its prior statements, including “the plight of black people in America after the brutal murder of George Floyd” when former President Marc Tessier-Lavigne demonstrated his thorough understanding of the issue.

Tessier-Lavigne resigned in July after scrutiny over flaws in his scientific research and the university is currently seeking a new president.

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Kfir Gavrieli, a co-founder of Tieks, a Los Angeles-based women’s shoe brand, and one of the letter’s signatories, expressed his hope for the next Stanford president to address the concerns of the Jewish and Israeli communities. Gavrieli has several degrees from Stanford, including an economics B.A., and master’s degrees in science and engineering as well as business administration.

“Our letter isn’t just a letter saying we think you did certain things wrong and could’ve done it better,” Gavrieli said in an interview. “It’s a very firm letter saying we don’t feel like we can be engaged with Stanford going forward because it doesn’t feel like home to us anymore.”

Beyond cutting off donations, Gavrieli said it also means no longer contributing to research, interviewing students or generally supporting the school.

—With assistance from Pierre Paulden.

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