Leon Cooperman, an illustrious alumnus of Columbia University and renowned investor currently leading Omega Advisors, voiced his strong critique of Ivy League students expressing sentiments against Israel. In his view, Israel is the single trustworthy ally of the United States in the complex political landscape of the Middle East. He champions Israel as the only democracy in the region that embraces diversity, including sexual orientation.
His views stem from a place of concern, particularly alarmed by what he sees as misguided sentiments of the younger generation. Mr. Cooperman has a long history of philanthropy and has donated significantly to Columbia University, his alma mater. Nevertheless, he has decided to pause his financial support due to recent developments.
Over the years, he has contributed approximately $50 million to the university. However, after noticing a rising wave of anti-Israel rhetoric, he has chosen to direct his philanthropic investments towards other organizations that align more with his values. His decision mirrors his dissatisfaction with the events taking place on campus.
The known financier reiterated his decision of putting donations to Columbia on hold, showing his disdain for the faculty members who won’t openly denounce acts of terror. Cooperman believes that the university should not tolerate such behavior and stance, especially when it originates from individuals in positions of influence, such as professors.
He has openly called for the dismissal of a certain professor whose commentary has been far from neutral in his view. Cooperman recognizes that conflict is destructive and is an advocate for peace. He feels that condoning the actions of extremist organizations like Hamas is both disgraceful and disgusting.
In response to these events, Minouche Shafik, the president of Columbia University, issued a statement attempting to address both views involved in the dispute. She noted with concern that the conflict is unfortunately being used by some to disseminate hatred including antisemitism, Islamophobia, and bigotry against Palestinians and Israelis.
She passionately wrote about the use of hurtful language against entire groups of people, especially during a time when emotions are heightened. She emphasized the importance of steering clear of stereotypes, vilification, and threats that target specific populations or groups based on their ethnicity, religion, or nationality.
Elaborating further, President Shafik stated that the adoption of such discriminative language was not in alignment with Columbia’s cherished values. She was clear that language fuelling harassment or inciting violence won’t go unnoticed or tolerated especially when it contravenes the university’s regulations or is otherwise unlawful.
Cooperman suggested that President Shafik should draw inspiration from influential business figures like Marc Rowan and Bill Ackman in shaping her response to the Israel-Hamas conflict. According to him, Rowan, who has effectively run and grown Apollo, has articulated his views on the subject succinctly and he appreciates his outspokenness.
The billionaire philanthropist also pointed towards other academic institutions’ responses as examples to glean from. He lauded famous business personalities, such as Bill Ackman, Marc Rowan, and Ronald Lauder, suggesting that supporting organizations that counter one’s beliefs is not a wise move.
While Cooperman remains uncertain whether the wave of anti-Israel sentiment among students will potentially devalue the prestige associated with a Columbia degree, he contends that the worth of postgraduate studies has indeed declined over time since his own graduation.
Drawing from personal experiences, as a former board member of Columbia University and observing current students, he feels that the financial trade-offs of pursuing higher education aren’t as favorable anymore. Despite the big leap in tuition fees, the financial prospects and job security after graduation do not seem to match formerly lucrative career paths.
Cooperman continues to appreciate Columbia University for the transformative impact it has had on him. However, he maintains his stance that recent events concerning the Middle East issue have been mishandled, suggesting that academic institutions would do well to keep their political opinions neutral.