The executives overseeing Harvard University’s $51 billion endowment reportedly trekked around Silicon Valley last week, meeting with deep-pocketed investors as the Ivy League looks to repair its battered image.
The team at Harvard Management Company, the nation’s largest college endowment, visited firms including Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins, and Andreessen Horowitz, according to The Wall Street Journal.
It’s unclear if any of the VC firms HMC’s leadership visited have ever donated to Harvard itself, though many venture capitalists have spoken out in recent months that they see pro-Palestinian bias in academia, The Journal reported.
Kleiner Perkins’ chairman and Harvard alum John Doerr, for example, was ranked by Forbes as dishing out the second-largest donation to a US school ever after cutting Stanford University a $1.1 billion check in 2022.
Harvard has recently lost about that much in donations, as wealthy donors like billionaire businessman Len Blavatnik — who’s gifted the school roughly $270 million — closed their checkbooks after the school failed to discipline students who spewed antisemitic rhetoric on campus.
Disgraced ex-President Claudine Gay’s initial statement in response to the Hamas attacks was also been based by some managers as “too weak,” per The Journal.
Harvard Management Company’s executives also met with prolific Israel-born investor Elad Gil during their unusual trip to Silicon Valley, according to The Journal.
In many meetings, HMC representatives discussed discontent surrounding Harvard’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, which critics say have gone too far in recent years.
HMC execs also said that with the increased prevalence of DEI, they were aware that some students and professors felt they had to censor themselves, and ensured that Harvard was looking into changing policies to accommodate greater academic freedom and freedom of speech, The Journal reported.
According to Pitchbook, Gil “counts the Harvard endowment among his LP [limited partner] base” when investing in unicorn companies at their early stages, like when he made early bets on Pinterest, Airbnb, and financial services company Stripe.
Harvard is a direct investor in Stripe, according to The Journal, which reported that the school’s endowment leaders also met with the company’s chief executive, Patrick Collinson, while in Silicon Valley.
Under the management company’s current CEO, NP “Narv” Narvekar, who took the helm in late 2016, the endowment has increased its venture exposure in recent years — and was reportedly responsible for the endowment’s nearly 3% gain in the 2023 fiscal year alone.
Narv was joined by HMC’s investment chief Rock Slocum and its managing director John Shue at most of the meetings, according to The Journal.
Shue has reportedly been in touch with similarly-influential fund managers on the opposite coast, including Josh Kushner of Thrive Capital in New York.
Kushner — a Harvard Business School grad who was upset by Harvard’s response to on-campus antisemitism, according to his posts on social media — is the brother of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law.
Kushner’s father controversially donated $2.5 million to Harvard just before Kushner was accepted into the prestigious university. It’s unclear if any members of the Kushner family have gifted funds to the school since.
Paul Finnegan, who serves as endowment’s chair and a member of the 12-person Harvard Corporation, attended some of the meetings, per The Journal, which said that it’s unusual for the investing titan to join endowment executives on manager visits.
During those meetings, Harvard executives reportedly insisted that the endowment wasn’t political and had no weight in who was named Harvard’s next president, people familiar with the matter told The Journal.
A spokesperson for the HMC declined The Post’s request for comment.
Spokesman Patrick McKiernan told The Journal: “HMC is fortunate to have strong, longstanding relationships with many investment managers who care deeply about higher education.”
“It is important to engage with our partners and share with them all of the ways that Harvard is actively working to ensure student safety and protect freedom of speech,” McKiernan added, failing to address the controversy that’s plagued the university in recent months.
Harvard initially came under fire for failing to condemn on-campus antisemitism in the wake of Hamas’ ambush Oct, 7 attacks on Israel, which killed thousands and saw the terrorist organization taking hundreds of others hostage.
Specifically, more than 30 Harvard student organizations penned a letter holding Israel “entirely responsible” for the massacre. Then-Harvard President Gay failed to bring disciplinary action against anyone involved in drafting the message, instead touting that the school “embraces a commitment to free expression.”
The move caused the school to lose a reported $1 billion in donations, and triggered calls for Gay to step down — which were amplified after a disastrous House testimony on antisemitism, in which the embattled Harvard grad told Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) that calls for genocide against the Jews would only violate Harvard’s rules depending on their “context.”
Gay finally gave up her post on Jan. 2 following another wake of controversy over her own academic work, which was accused of being riddled with plagiarism.
Despite resigning, Harvard said Gay would still be employed by the university and be paid a salary comparable to the nearly $900,000 per year she made as president.
Her new position has yet to be confirmed.