Longtime investor Steve Eisman is the latest Wall Street executive to distance himself from his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, as the school’s leadership faces criticism for not doing enough to combat antisemitism in the aftermath of Israel’s war with Hamas.
On Thursday, an investor from “The Big Short” told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that after hearing fellow finance executive Marc Rowan urge donors to stop their checkbooks to Penn, he called the university and demanded that his family’s name be removed from a scholarship.
Eisman, a senior portfolio manager at investment firm Neuberger Berman, told CNBC that any student who “holds up a sign that says free Palestine from the river to the sea should be expelled” from the university, referring to recent pro-Palestinian protests on campus.
Much of the donor angst stems from the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, which took place on Penn’s campus in September. Some of the festival’s presenters have made anti-Semitic statements in the past. Before the festival, donors and fellow alumni signed an open letter to the university’s leadership expressing their reservations about the event.
Penn’s president has recently announced a university-wide anti-antisemitism strategy. Penn will establish a new antisemitism task committee, chaired by Dean of the School of Dental Medicine Mark Wolff, which will conduct its inaugural meeting later this month.
Eisman, like Rowan, stated that the only way he would identify himself with the University of Pennsylvania again is if the institution’s president and chairman were ousted. Donors, according to Rowan, should refrain from giving to the institution until those leaders retire.
Eisman, who played Mark Baum in the smash film “The Big Short” about the 2008 financial crisis, is the latest university benefactor to withdraw their support from the University of Pennsylvania, citing concerns that the university’s leadership is not doing enough to combat antisemitism.
Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, Eisman gave at least $25,000 to Penn. Eisman was among a number of donors that provided at least $25,000 to support programs at Penn Arts and Sciences, according to the school’s annual gift book from the period.
An email seeking response from a University of Pennsylvania press official was not returned.