by WorldTribune Staff, April 23, 2020
Harvard University has a $40.9 billion endowment, the largest in the world and greater than the gross domestic product of 90 countries.
On April 22, Harvard said it would return the $8.6 million in coronavirus relief funds it received from the federal government. But, while doing so, the Ivy League institution also took at swipe at President Donald Trump, who had pressured Harvard to return the funds.
“Harvard will not accept funds from the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Like most colleges & universities, Harvard has been allocated funds as part of the CARES Act. Harvard did not apply for this support, nor has it requested, received or accessed the funds,” the university tweeted.
“We are concerned that intense focus by politicians & others on Harvard in connection with the program may undermine participation in a relief effort Congress created & the president signed into law for the purpose of helping those whose financial challenges may be most severe,” Harvard added. “As a result of this, and the evolving guidance being issued around use of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Harvard has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute.”
Harvard has long and deep ties to China, where the Wuhan coronavirus originated. Harvard President Lawrence Bacow and his wife met with Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on March 20, 2019.
Related: Nanotech research tied to Wuhan University involved Harvard professor, PLA officer, February 4, 2020
Harvard had earlier said it would not return the coronavirus funds, saying it applied for and received money from another fund specifically geared to colleges and universities.
“President Trump is right that it would not have been appropriate for our institution to receive funds that were designated for struggling small businesses,” the school tweeted before the about-face. “Like most colleges and universities, Harvard has been allocated funds as part of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.”
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act, passed in March, included a provision to help colleges during the coronavirus outbreak. It was meant to assist universities and colleges struggling with financial shortfalls due to the virus, forcing both classes and revenue-creating sporting events to shut down.
Trump on April 21 said “Harvard’s going to pay back the money. They shouldn’t be taking it. I’m not going to mention any other names, but when I saw Harvard — they have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe in the world, I guess. They’re going to pay back that money.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also criticized Harvard, saying it needs to forgo its payment.
“As I’ve said since day 1, wealthy institutions like @Harvard don’t need this money,” DeVos tweeted. “They should follow Stanford’s lead & embrace the @ShakeShack principle – leave the $$ for those with the greatest need!”
DeVos was referring to the Shake Shack fast food company, which, according to reports, has about 8,000 employees and nearly 200 locations. Shake Shack said it would return $10 million in bailout funding it received via the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that was included in the CARES Act.
Some Harvard alums were upset with the university.
“Just because the law was written to make the money available does not mean it was moral to take it,” Danielle Leonard, a lawyer in San Francisco, told Boston.com.
Leonard said the university had many options other than accepting public money, including loans in Denmark to support international students and pay employees and staff members. Harvard “does not need a grant of public funds to do that,” she added.