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Harvard Boss Regrets Referring to Donors as Freed Slaves

Lawrence Bacow compared policy change to 13th Amendment
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2019 8:11 AM CDT
Lawrence Bacow speaks at Harvard in 2018.   (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

(Newser) – The president of Harvard has apologized for appearing to liken university donors to freed slaves. Lawrence Bacow on Tuesday told hundreds of alumni and fundraising staff members that donors now can give to any Harvard college, and will no longer be "owned" by the one they attended. His explanation invoked the 13th Amendment, the Boston Globe reports, which freed enslaved people. On Saturday, Bacow sent an internal email saying he regretted any offense. "I hoped to convey my belief that our collective job is to help our donors achieve their philanthropic objectives," he wrote, per Newsweek, adding, "I promise to learn from this experience."

Students and academics objected to the comparison. "As if Harvard doesn't have enough probs w/ influence peddling & monied interests," a Kennedy School professor tweeted. The Bacow comment comes after the university recently said it had accepted donations totaling $9 million from sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein between 1998 and 2007. A student leader said, "People like President Bacow seem to view slavery as an institution of the past that serves solely to illuminate an intellectual framework, not an institutionalized system of brutality that reigns in the present." (Read more Harvard stories.)

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