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Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin says college protests are the result of a ‘cultural revolution’ and Harvard should ’embrace our Western values’


Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Citadel, wader deeper into the national debate about American colleges and the protests that have consumed many campuses over Israel’s war in Gaza.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the Harvard alum and mega-donor decried the social justice “narrative” at some schools.

“What you’re seeing now is the end-product of this cultural revolution in American education playing out on American campuses, in particular, using the paradigm of the oppressor and the oppressed,” Griffin said, comparing protests to “performative art” that doesn’t help Palestinians or Israelis.

Campuses nationwide have been roiled since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas and Israel’s response in Gaza. In the U.S., thousands have been arrested at colleges, while presidents at Ivy League schools have stepped down, including at Harvard, and graduation ceremonies have been canceled.

Griffin and others on Wall Street have been weighing in on the protests, especially at elite colleges. In January, he called Harvard students “whiny snowflakes” and halted his donations to the school, which have topped $500 million. On Monday, he said the protests were the result of a “failed education system,” adding that the situation at Harvard looked better than at Columbia, where police raids last month cleared out protesters and their encampment.

When asked by the Financial Times what Harvard should do next, Griffin replied, “Harvard should put front and center [that it] stands for meritocracy in America and will educate the next generation of leaders in American business, government, healthcare, and the philanthropic community. Harvard will embrace our Western values that have built one of the greatest nations in the world, foster those values with students, and ask them to manifest these values throughout the rest of their life.”

Harvard did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

Fellow hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has similarly been critical of college protests as well as diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. But at the Milken Institute Global Conference this past week, he reportedly faced sharp backlash from both panelists and audience members, who told Bloomberg that his views were detrimental to the progress of women and people of color in America.

Some businesses have already vowed that they won’t hire students who participated in the protests, while others have voiced their support.

Recently, recruiting experts who spoke to Fortune were split on what effect the protests will have on students’ ability to get hired, if any. 

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden earlier this month defended the right of students to protest peacefully but rejected their demand to change his approach on Gaza and also said “order must prevail” at schools.

A forthcoming White House report on the use of U.S.-provided weapons in Gaza is expected to be critical of Israel but doesn’t conclude that Israel violated the terms for their use.

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