After Capitol Riots, Billionaire’s ‘Scholars’ Confront Their Benefactor

After Capitol Riots, Billionaire’s ‘Scholars’ Confront Their Benefactor

Private Equity Billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman has spent years financing educational programs, from his old high school to the Ivy League.

But the chief executive of Blackstone did not always buy the will: his proposal to keep his name at Abington Senior High School in Pennsylvania was swiftly opposed and former President Donald J. His close ties with Trump contributed to his opposition, naming a campus center he funded at Yale.

And now, some participants in the Schwarzman Scholars Program – a master’s course he founded at Tsinghua University in Beijing, to be the Chinese analogue for the Rhodes Scholarship – are speaking out against his beneficiary.

They say that Mr. Schwarzman has failed to live up to his own values ​​and is damaging the program’s reputation by not cutting the money of MPs who authenticate President Biden’s election victory.

in A letter February 10, 161 Current and past Schwarzman scholars and two program professors emailed Mr. Schwarzman and urged Mr. Schwarzman to cut those politicians and groups. “You showed honesty, honesty and courage,” he wrote. “Now, we ask that you demonstrate by refusing to financially support those values ​​that will reverse the results of free and fair elections for your own political gain.”

About an hour later, Mr. Schwarzman – who was the third largest donor to MPs who objected to his wife, according to an analysis Center of Responsive Politics – refused.

Although the election certification vote would be “one of the key factors” in determining who it supported in the future, Mr. Schwarzman wrote, “I carefully determine my constitutional right to whom I support and support.”

One of Mr. Schwarzman’s best-known achievements, a one-year undergraduate program, began with $ 100 million in donations and was augmented with $ 450 million that he raised from others. More than 200 students participate each year, living and learning in a building designed by Robert AM Stern Architects – called Schwarzman College – with a focus on Chinese history, leadership and global affairs.

But some signatories to the letter have begun to question whether having a “Schwarzman Scholar” on their resume is as risky as it is an advantage.

“I think in good conscience I don’t allow my name to be associated with someone who refuses to commit to not donating to such people,” Alistair Kitchen, an alumnus of the program who wrote the letter Helped organize support for.

Mr Kitchen, 29, an Australian who works in New York for mass impact, a strategy firm that focuses on progressive causes, said some scholars felt that their engagement with the program could taint them, Even this burned the legacy of Mr. Schwarzman, who Sh. . Kitchen called the form a “prestige of repute”.

For Ashley Cohan, who did his work through the University of Kansas and joined the Kansas Air National Guard before becoming a Schwarzman Scholar, the event was a revelation – the first time he was able to focus on academics and not cost . But he said that Mr. Schwarzman did not understand the extent of his influence.

“She has this self-perception as an average American citizen, which she is in some ways,” said Ms. Cohan, 30, who works in state government. “But I think it disregards the fact that he has this external capital, and his donations give him an outside influence.”

Since 2016, a quarter of the more than 600 students participating in the program signed the letter, with 18 anonymous. Some scholars supported the letter, organizers said, but the signing was expected to result in their professional lives.

There were different reasons for the decline in others. Charles Vitry, a London alumnus of the program’s 2018 class, did not sign, although he said he “respected and appreciated” the principles of those people. He said he saw “the need for a wider community space to discuss challenging issues.”

A spokesman for Mr. Schwarzman said the event began in 2013 – “long before the 2016 election” – and that Mr. Schwarzman supported congressional Republicans across the board in 2019. “Steve donated to vote to certify the majority of the candidates. The result – as Steve has repeatedly said,” said Matt Anderson, the spokesman.

Schwarzman Scholars Program spokeswoman Eli Gottdenkar said in a statement that the program is “true to its global mission and reputation as a world-class bridge for mutual understanding between China and the rest of the world.”

This is not the first time that Mr. Schwarzman has taken a step into educational philanthropy and has faced opposition from benefactors. Nor is this the first time that the opposition has occupied its political positions.

In 2015, Mr. Schwarzman donated $ 150 million to Yale, Alma Mater, to build a building for events and informal ceremonies to be named the Schwarzman Center, Some professors and students complained About Blackstone’s business practices and his relationship with Mr. Trump.

In 2018, he promised $ 350 million to build a new computer science center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which he also named, Drew opposition on similar grounds.

That same year, he pledged $ 25 million to help upgrade the high school he attended in suburban Philadelphia, agreeing to add his name to his own. Proposal deferred An immediate response, And Mr. Schwarzman and the school moved the curriculum after them only in the name of building a new science and technology.

Soon after the program welcomed its first class in 2016, friction with Schwarzman Scholars almost began.

Soon after the election, Mr. Schwarzman agreed to head a business advisory council that made him one of Mr. Trump’s foremost allies. According to Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump introduced a travel and immigration prohibition for people in predominantly Muslim countries, Mr. Schwarzman, according to one participant, sharply questioned scholars over the video chat. He argued that instead of differences it was important to take a broader view and focus on common ground.

Then came the 2020 election, and the result of Mr. Schwarzman’s response seemed as if some members of the program had been equaled.

With business leaders still counting votes in the battlefield, Mr. Schwarzman said he was sympathetic to voters who were skeptical of votes. Later in the month, he said the result was “very definite” and that Mr Biden had his full support.

When the rioters stormed the Capitol, Mr. Schwarzman condemned his actions as a “rebellion” and “our darling to democratic values” in a statement by Blackstone staff and Schwarzman scholars.

But as many businesses and trade organizations were announcing that they would Withdraw subsidy Among those who opposed the certification of the election, at least two alumni wrote to Mr. Schwarzman expressing concern about his financial support of the objections; He said he did not respond.

Disappointed scholars began discussing a group paper. Mr. Kitchen and his former classmate Ricky Altieri, a 28-year-old Yale Law student, circulated the draft on WeChat, text and signal and eventually settled on a five-paragraph note. It asked that Mr. Schwarzman never commit to donating to any politician or political group that “supported Mr. Trump’s bid to reverse the results of the 2020 US presidential election.”

“We believe that donating to such candidates would violate the most basic principles of Schwarzman scholars and damage its reputation,” the letter said.

In his reply, which quickly made its way between current and former scholars, Mr. Schwarzman pushed back, writing that he had publicly endorsed the certification of Mr. Biden’s victory. Although a large number of protesters disappointed and confused him, he said, they were “acting legally under the Constitution.”

He said, “In a democracy it is important that we continue to trust our constitutional system and do not agree to remain silent voluntarily.”

Some scholars agreed – and cited the impact of the program as a reason.

A 25-year-old strategy consultant from New York focused on international development in Latin America, Jaco Valge said the program raised his awareness of the world around him and taught him about leadership and moral courage.

“I think those subjects are really authentically taught there,” Mr. Walz said. “And now that I have graduated, I hope to practice them all the time.”



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