“I promise to learn from this experience. I do not want to disappoint you as I did some of you during our meeting.”
How awkward. What could Lawrence Bacow have been thinking to make such a comparison?
Harvard President Apologizes for Comparing Rich Donors to Freed Slaves in Alumni Meeting
Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow is being criticized as “tone deaf” for his Tuesday comparison between slavery and the school’s fundraising efforts among alumni.
Bacow used an analogy which compared Harvard’s relationship of owning wealthy donors to the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which freed American slaves in 1865.
Speaking at an alumni affairs and development staff meeting in Sanders Theatre Tuesday, Bacow was addressing a donation imbalance among specific schools under the university’s umbrella. He noted that individual schools with big donors such as Harvard Business School can no longer “own” their wealthy alumni to donate solely to them, the Boston Globe reported.
Bacow later apologized in an email to staff Saturday morning, in which he acknowledged the comments could be construed as offensive. One staff member told the Globe that hundreds of attendees were upset by his slavery comparison.
“I regret that these comments caused offense. That certainly was not my intent,” Bacow wrote in an apologetic email to university staff. “I hoped to convey my belief that our collective job is to help our donors achieve their philanthropic objectives, which might include supporting activities in schools where they enjoyed no prior affiliation.”
“People, appropriately, have high expectations for their leaders and their choice of language,” Bacow continued. “In fact, you have high expectations for me as your president. I promise to learn from this experience. I do not want to disappoint you as I did some of you during our meeting.”
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