Billionaire Ken Griffin calls Harvard students “whiny snowflakes”

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Billionaire Ken Griffin, who has donated over $500 million to Harvard University, said he’s stopped giving money to the Ivy League college because he believes the school is “lost in the wilderness” and has veered from its “the roots of educating American children.”

Griffin, who made the comments at a conference hosted by the Managed Funds Association in Miami on Tuesday, also aimed his criticism at students at Harvard and other elite colleges, calling them “whiny snowflakes.” Griffin, founder and CEO of hedge fund Citadel, is worth almost $37 billion, making him the 35th richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Griffin’s comments come amid a furious public debate over the handling of antisemitism on college campuses since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned from her post earlier this month after drawing criticism for her December congressional testimony on the university’s response to rising antisemitism on campus, as well as allegations of plagiarism in her academic work. 

“Are we going to educate the future members of the House and Senate and the leaders of IBM? Or are we going to educate a group of young men and women who are caught up in a rhetoric of oppressor and oppressee and, ‘This is not fair,’ and just frankly whiny snowflakes?” Griffin said at the conference. “Where are we going with elite education in schools in America?”

Key Speakers at Day Two of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum
Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of hedge fund Citadel, during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023.  Lionel Ng/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Harvard didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The December congressional hearing also led to the resignation of University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, who testified along with Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth. The three college leaders drew fire for what critics said was their failure to clearly state whether calls for genocide against Jewish people would violate their schools’ policies.

Griffin, who graduated from Harvard in 1989 with a degree in economics, said Tuesday he would like to restart his donations to his alma mater, but noted that it depends on whether the university returns to what he sees as its basic mission.

3 top college leaders under fire after congressional hearing on campus antisemitism 02:47

“Until Harvard makes it clear they are going to resume their role of educators of young American men and women to be leaders, to be problems solvers, to take on difficult issues, I’m not interested in supporting the institution,” he said.

Griffin isn’t the only wealth Harvard alum to take issue with its student body and leadership. In October, billionaire hedge fund investor CEO Bill Ackman called on the school to disclose the names of students who belong to organizations that signed a statement blaming Israel for the October 7 Hamas attack on Israeli citizens. Ackman said in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), that he wants to make sure never to “inadvertently hire any of their members.”

Aimee Picchi

Aimee Picchi is the associate managing editor for CBS MoneyWatch, where she covers business and personal finance. She previously worked at Bloomberg News and has written for national news outlets including USA Today and Consumer Reports.

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