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Robert Kraft says elite schools are to blame for 'hate' on campus

Paul Squire   

Robert Kraft says elite schools are to blame for 'hate' on campus
  • Robert Kraft says top schools' leadership and faculty have "failed" students as protests continue.
  • The Patriots owner and megadonor to Columbia University pulled his support for the Ivy last week.

Robert Kraft isn't holding back.

The billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, who was a major donor to Columbia University, took out full-page ads Thursday in major cities' newspapers blasting elite universities.

"The leadership and faculty of so many of our leading educational institutions have failed their students," the 82-year-old sports exec wrote.

"They have not only given up their positions of authority but also their moral compasses in upholding the core missions of these colleges and universities — to protect their students and the principles of critical thinking and free speech — to teach how to think, not what to think," Kraft said in the ad.

Demonstrations have gripped campuses across the US in recent weeks as pro-Palestinian organizers protest Israel's war in Gaza. Jewish leaders on major college campuses, including Columbia, have accused protesters of targeting Jewish students with hateful rhetoric.

The demonstrators are demanding the schools divest from Israel and companies that have ties to the country, calling the war with Hamas a "genocide" against Palestinian civilians. At Columbia, students broke into a campus building and occupied it.

Meanwhile, police have responded to the universities' requests for help with force, arresting hundreds of demonstrators.

Kraft has weighed in before, announcing last week that he'd pull his support for Columbia over the protests.

But with his comments Thursday — part of a campaign by his organization Foundation to Combat Antisemitism — Kraft went further to put the blame on college leadership.

Kraft said he supported the right of students to protest but wrote that threats of violence and "vicious hate speech" were "completely unacceptable."

He added that the schools' faculty and administrators were responsible.

"Unfortunately, today, hate is exactly what is being learned and taught on campuses across our country," the megadonor wrote.

Kraft didn't sympathize with protesters, calling for them to face consequences "when this ends."

"They need to be held accountable in order to send a message to future generations of students — that it is necessary to adhere to the rules of civil society and the codes of conduct of academic communities and that free speech means standing behind your words and accepting the consequences of your actions," he wrote in the ad.

The FCAS said in a press release it also planned to put up billboards and launch TV ads as part of its campaign.

The ad campaign is the latest pushback by powerful financial backers of leading academic institutions over the Israel-Gaza demonstrations on college campuses. Kraft is one of Columbia University's largest donors; the campus' Jewish-life center is named after him (and will still be getting his support).

Another top Columbia donor, the billionaire Leon Cooperman, denounced the protesters as kids with "shit for brains" but didn't blame the faculty.

Campaigns led by other top university donors pushed the presidents of Harvard and UPenn to resign.

Meanwhile, politicians have also weighed in, with House Speaker Mike Johnson calling for Columbia president Nemat "Minouche" Shafik to step down. Republicans are planning an ad blitz of their own to use the protests to target vulnerable Democrats by tying them to antisemitism, Axios reported.

It's unclear whether the protests are working. Before police removed protesters from Columbia's campus, Shafik flatly said the school wouldn't divest from Israel.

The demonstrations don't appear to be influencing US policy either just yet. On Thursday, President Joe Biden said he wasn't reconsidering his stance on Israel despite polling showing that young voters disapprove of his handling of the Israel-Gaza war.

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