Outspoken billionaire and Pershing Square Capital founder Bill Ackman has continued his crusade against universities for what he describes as their failure to combat anti-Semitism. This time, Ackman was responding to an open letter from several major law firms that criticized what they saw as elite universities’ lukewarm response to anti-Semitism.
Ackman has been a vocal critic of college campuses since the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. He is particularly angry at his alma mater, Harvard, after student groups published a letter accusing Israel for the Hamas terrorist attacks, which the university did not denounce as soon as possible, according to him. Amid the controversy, Ackman requested that the names of student groups and their members be published. released so companies can avoid hiring them.
More than two dozen law firms, including some of the biggest names in Big Law like Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, sent the letter to nearly 15 law schools. In the letter, the companies expressed concern over harassment of Jewish students and “rallies calling for the death of Jews and the elimination of the State of Israel.”
“Anti-Semitic activities will not be tolerated in any of our businesses,” the letter said. “We would also not tolerate outside groups engaging in harassment and threats of violence, as has also occurred on many of your campuses. »
The law firms that signed the letter said they wanted to ensure that the law students they hired would not have discriminatory views.
“We are counting on you to ensure that your students who hope to join our companies after graduation are prepared to actively participate in work communities that have zero tolerance policies for any form of discrimination or harassment, and minus those that take place today. certain law school campuses,” the letter states.
Responses from law schools have been mostly muted. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, law school, said he welcomed the letter but was not sure what concrete steps the firms were advocating.
“I’m not sure what law firms are asking law schools to do, but it is certainly our role to protect free speech for all of our students, while ensuring that there is a conducive learning environment and preparing students for the practice of law. right to the highest levels of the profession,” Chemerinsky said Reuters.
Ackman questioned whether universities were taking these concerns seriously enough. “Each of these universities, law schools, and business schools have recently made massive investments in DEI initiatives, staff, and faculty,” Ackman said on Twitter. “Where are they? What are they doing?”
In his post, Ackman said he has heard from Harvard students that “DEI staff do not respond to complaints from Asian, white (non-LGBTQ), or Jewish students, nor do they accept serious complaints.”
The idea for the letter came from Joseph Shenker, senior chairman of Sullivan & Cromwell, according to Bloomberg. Shenker then sent the letter to other law firms to join.
This is not the first time that law schools have found themselves facing criticism in the context of the current crisis. conflict between Israel and Hamas. For example, the president of the NYU Law School Student Bar Association sent a mass email bearing the group’s name accusing Israel of being responsible for the October 7 attacks. “Israel bears full responsibility for this enormous loss of life. » they wrote.
As a result of this backlash, the president of the student bar association had a job offer from the law firm Winston & Strawn rescinded. The law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell also withdrew the job offers of at least three Harvard and Columbia law students for making similar statements.