Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman is planning to form a think tank to probe higher education following his success in forcing ousted Harvard President Claudine Gay to resign.
The 57-year-old Pershing Square Capital Management founder has made a name for himself as he criticized alma mater for not doing enough to protect its Jewish students from antisemitism in the wake of Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel and the subsequent military operations in Gaza.
He has also spoken out against Harvard’s adoption of diversity and inclusion programs he argues stifle meritocracy.
To help combat these issues, Ackman announced on Friday his intention to form a team complete with a chief executive officer and a board of directors that will go “after these issues in a very aggressive way.
“It’s going to be a think-and-do tank,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“We’re going to study these issues and come up with solutions to problems, and we’re going to implement them.”
But in order to effect real change, Ackman said he can no longer support the Democratic Party that is pushing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
“I was a Bill Clinton Democrat,” he said in the Friday interview, “and what the party has morphed into is not something I want to be associated with.”
Ackman has previously argued in a lengthy social media post that his alma mater’s policies on diversity, equity and inclusion, are “the root cause of antisemitism” at Harvard University.
“DEI is racist because reverse racism is racism, even if it is against white people (and it is remarkable that I even need to point this out),” he wrote.
He went on to blame the DEI movement as “an important contributor to our growing divisiveness,” noting that it has bred resentment — “one of the most important drivers of racism.”
Ackman concluded his post by calling for the resignation of the Harvard Corporation Board members who backed Gay, even after her disastrous congressional testimony about antisemitic protests on campuses.
“The Board Chair, Penny Pritzker, should resign along with the other members of the board who led the campaign to keep Claudine Gay, orchestrated the strategy to threaten the media, bypassed the process for evaluating plagiarism, and otherwise greatly contributed to the damage that has been done,” according to Ackman.
“These are the minimum changes necessary to begin to repair the damage that has been done,” he said.
He is also supporting four alums in their bid to join the university’s board of overseers — the school’s second-highest governing body, behind the embattled Harvard Corporation, with the power to approve or reject the hiring of Harvard’s next president.
The four candidates — Zoe Bedell, Logan Leslie, Julia Pollak, and Alec Williams — are running on a platform of protecting free speech, protecting students from bullying and harassment, and addressing financial mismanagement, including of the school’s $50.7 billion endowment.
“Harvard needs to change. Bringing fresh young blood onto the board of overseers can help with that,” Ackman, who has donated about $50 million to Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters late Tuesday.
He added that the candidates he is backing are “talented, accomplished and motivated people, and their candidacy will serve as a wakeup call for Harvard.”
The four candidates range in age from 26 to 38, and all have served in the US military.
In order to run for election to the board, they must gather at least 3,300 signatures from the Ivy League school’s graduates — equivalent to 1% of those entitled to vote — by the end of January.
With Post wires.