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Harvard President Garber to Visit London as University Looks to Contain Donor Backlash

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Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 will meet with alumni in London over spring break, marking his first international trip as president.

Garber will speak with alumni in London at an event co-hosted by the Harvard Club of the United Kingdom and the Harvard Alumni Association on March 11, a week after he is due to respond to a congressional subpoenas over Harvard’s response to antisemitism.

Garber’s trip to London replaces former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s planned travel to Asia during spring break, which was scrapped after her resignation on Jan. 2. It is unclear if the trip will include stops in other European countries.

The decision to visit London, arguably the second-largest financial capital of the world, comes as the University is trying to contain a growing donor exodus and convince alumni that things are on the mend after a fall semester marked by almost nonstop controversy since Oct. 7.

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While most of the donor fallout occurred last fall, it did not end with Gay’s resignation. Billionaire hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin ’89 — who donated $300 million to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in April 2023 — pledged to pause donations late last month.

Victoria W. K. Leung ’91, president of the Harvard Club of the United Kingdom, said “the UK is a renewed priority for the University” and Garber’s trip is part of a larger “listening tour.”

“I think that it’s just a very very simple relationship building exercise, and I do understand that they are trying to salvage and regenerate goodwill because obviously there’s a lot of falling-out among donors and alums,” Leung said.

“I think they are taking the right steps,” she added.

Leung said the trip was planned three weeks ago by the Harvard Alumni Association.

HAA Executive Director Sarah C. Karmon wrote in an emailed statement the HAA was “delighted” Garber would be heading to London to meet with alumni.

“I know he is looking forward to engaging with the club and with our numerous and active alumni throughout the United Kingdom,” she wrote.

Garber’s trip to the Harvard Club of the UK follows other visits to London by senior University officials, including a recent event with Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh, Dean of Students Thomas Dunne, and Harvard development officers.

Claybaugh and Dunne also met with alumni in early February in New York with Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana.

Leung said the UK was made a top priority after planned trips by former Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow and Gay had been canceled.

Bacow visited Jordan, Israel, and Palestine in March 2023, his last international trip as president. He met with alumni and visited universities in all three countries, facing backlash from Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee for visiting Palestine “while denying the crime of apartheid on the ground.”

In a January interview with The Crimson, Garber expressed confidence in Harvard’s process for soliciting donations, saying that donors are “aligned” with the University’s goals.

“We listen to all kinds of voices that speak about Harvard University,” he said. “Our donors are among them, young alumni who are not donors, public figures of all kinds, many people have weighed in on what Harvard is and is not doing, what it should and should not be doing.”

“We are always guided by the mission of the University, which is fundamentally excellence in teaching and research,” he added. “To the extent that we are falling short, we intend to address that.”

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at emma.haidar@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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