Harvard Students Lose Job Offers Over Student Groups’ Statements on Israel–Hamas War

A top law firm rescinded job offers in the midst of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Harvard Students Lose Job Offers Over Student Groups’ Statements on Israel–Hamas War
Posters of those suspected of being abducted by Palestinian terrorists in Israel are hung throughout Harvard University campus (Photo by Alice Giordano)
Jack Phillips
10/20/2023
Updated:
10/20/2023
0:00

A major law firm rescinded job offers to Harvard University and Columbia University students who were associated with letters that were sent to express solidarity with Palestinians while blaming Israel for the recent Hamas attacks.

Davis Polk & Wardwell said it rescinded the offers to several candidates because the views in the letter “are in direct contravention of our firm’s value system.”

“We thus concluded that rescinding these offers was appropriate in upholding our responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive work environment for all Davis Polk employees,” the firm’s managing partner, Neil Barr, wrote in a letter, according to multiple news reports.

A Davis Polk spokesperson on Tuesday told Reuters that the firm would not identify the students whose offers had been rescinded or what campus groups they were with.

Students who went to Columbia University also were denied job applications, according to the firm.

Mr. Barr said the firm is remaining “in dialogue” with two of the students to consider any additional information they may offer, suggesting that they could be brought back on board.

Both Harvard Law and Columbia Law have not issued public comments on the matter this week.

Davis Polk’s decision comes one week after Winston & Strawn said it had rescinded a job offer to former New York University Student Bar Association president Ryna Workman, after she wrote that “Israel bears full responsibility” for Hamas’ deadly attack in Israel in an online SBA newsletter. Students at other universities, including Harvard, have also drawn condemnation from alumni and others over similar statements they issued in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks.

Winston & Strawn, in a statement, said it “stands in solidarity with Israel’s right to exist in peace and condemns Hamas and the violence and destruction it has ignited in the strongest terms possible.”

Earlier this month, a group of 34 Harvard University organizations signed a declaration that holds “the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” Some have since retracted their statements. Meanwhile, the Palestine Solidarity Groups released a joint statement that claimed ”the weight of responsibility for the war and casualties undeniably lies with the Israeli extremist government and other Western governments.”

Retail mogul Leslie Wexner talks at the "Transfigurations" exhibit, Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Retail mogul Leslie Wexner talks at the "Transfigurations" exhibit, Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine further said that attacks carried out by the Hamas terrorist organization earlier in the month were “counter-offensive against their settler-colonial oppressor.” Top U.S. officials have described Hamas’ actions as a terrorist attack that killed hundreds of Israeli civilians, including children.

American Bar Association President Mary Smith, meanwhile, issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the targeting of civilians in the Israel–Hamas conflict, saying that the legal community should “recognize the humanity of both Palestinians and Israelis when commenting on the crisis and to ensure that employees, students and others can respectfully express their diverse view without fear of unjust punishment or censure.”

The move from the top law firms comes after billionaire investor Bill Ackman wrote on social media that he would make sure that any student who signed the Ivy League letters cannot work on Wall Street. A number of other business executives have endorsed his message.

In the midst of the Israel–Hamas spat, the Wexner Foundation, a nonprofit founded by billionaire Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail, broke ties with Harvard amid the school’s response to the conflict.

“We are stunned and sickened at the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians by terrorists last Saturday,” the Wexner Foundation’s leadership wrote in a letter obtained by The Epoch Times.

Former Harvard president Larry Summers, who served as Treasury Secretary under former President Bill Clinton, said the student groups’ letter “sickened him.”

“The silence from Harvard’s leadership, so far, coupled with a vocal and widely reported student groups’ statement blaming Israel solely, has allowed Harvard to appear at best neutral toward acts of terror against the Jewish state of Israel,” Mr. Summers wrote in a post on social media.

Amid the debate over student free speech, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (Fire) said the conflict has led to a fraught moment for many campuses across the United States.

“From a legal perspective, corporations have the right to rescind job offers, private citizens can say they never hire anyone from Harvard. But Fire urges pause,” Alex Morey, Fire’s director of campus rights advocacy, said in a statement. “Do we want to live in a society where everybody has to have one orthodox view to get a job?”

Reuters contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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