Blackstone Inc. President Jon Gray said he remains committed to funding low-income students and cancer research at the University of Pennsylvania, while acknowledging concerns over antisemitic speech on campus.
(Bloomberg) — Blackstone Inc. President Jon Gray said he remains committed to funding low-income students and cancer research at the University of Pennsylvania, while acknowledging concerns over antisemitic speech on campus.
“Some of my colleagues in the financial field and more broadly have raised some really legitimate concerns about hate speech masquerading as free speech in the context of antisemitism on college campuses at Penn and other places,” Gray said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
The backlash against elite US universities is growing as colleges try to balance free speech concerns with condemnation of Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union.
Penn has been at the center of the controversy after Apollo Global Management Inc.’s Marc Rowan demanded that President Elizabeth Magill and board chair Scott Bok step down. He has cited the school’s reaction to the Hamas attack on Israel in October, as well as its hosting of the Palestine Writes Literature Festival last month.
Read More: Blackstone Profit Tumbles 12% on Interest Rates, Deal Slump
“I think she’s a good person,” said Gray of Magill. “I don’t think she’s antisemitic.”
But ultimately the decision over her future lies with the Trustees at Penn, he added.
“I think it’s important that university leaders really stand up,” said Gray, who donated $55 million to Penn last year along with his wife to fund cancer prevention. He added he hoped there would be “important lessons from what’s happened over the last few weeks.”
Gray said the war between Israel and Gaza is creating added uncertainty among investors already grappling with another war in Russia and Ukraine and persistently high interest rates.
“Generally people want more certainty; they want terra firma,” said Gray, adding that the war in the Middle East will put “upward pressure” on oil prices. “Of course the bigger issue is the human tragedy there and we’re all concerned about that.”
Blackstone, grappling with higher interest rates and stung by a pullback in dealmaking, on Thursday reported a 12% decline in quarterly profit available to shareholders.
Blackstone shares fell 6.5% to $95.68 at 10:31 a.m. in New York.
–With assistance from Erin Fuchs.
(Updates with information about university donation in seventh paragraph. An earlier version of this story misstated the day Blackstone reported earnings.)
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