Larry Bacow apologises for remark about 13th amendment in which he said colleges should not try to own wealthy alumni
The president of Harvard University has apologized for likening the 13th amendment to the US constitution which abolished slavery to changes in how colleges raise funds.
The comment came during a meeting of hundreds of fundraising and alumni relations staffers, in a discussion of a fundraising campaign that encourages graduates to donate money to schools to which they might not have ties.
If individual schools try to own well-heeled alumni, Barcow was reported to have said, that could place schools which produce civil servants, for example, at a disadvantage.
I regret that these comments caused offense, Bacow wrote in an internal email which Harvard provided to the Guardian. That certainly was not my intent.
He added: People, appropriately, have high expectations for their leaders and their choice of language. In fact, you have high expectations for me as your president. I promise to learn from this experience.
Harvard did not comment further.
Some staffers felt Bacows analogy was tone deaf.
This was not an appropriate comparison, one told the Globe.
According to the Washington Post, Harvard has a history with slavery and attempts to atone have included the installation of a plaque in honor of four people who were enslaved there in the 1700s. In 2017, Harvard hosted a symposium that examined the relationship between slavery and higher-education institutions.
Bacows comments come on the heels of controversy over the colleges acceptance of donations from the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in jail earlier this year.
Harvard accepted some $9m prior to Epsteins 2008 guilty plea to prostitution charges in Florida. The institution rejected a donation after his conviction. The politically connected financier did not attend Harvard.
Earlier this month, Bacow wrote in an email to students and faculty that Epsteins behavior was repulsive and reprehensible and raises significant questions about how institutions like ours review and vet donors.
Bacow said $186,000 from Epsteins donations remained and would be distributed to organizations that help human victims of sexual assault and human trafficking.