Saturday, February 20, 2016

Harvard donor stops sponsoring student events after anti-Israel meet

BOSTON (AP) — A major backer of Harvard Law School has stopped sponsoring student events after its donation helped pay for a discussion on Palestine.

In 2012, the international law firm Milbank promised Harvard $1 million over five years to pay for scholarly conferences organized by law students. But after the money was used to support an event hosted by the student group Justice for Palestine, the law firm asked Harvard Law School to use the money for other purposes.

Calls to Milbank's New York headquarters weren't returned this week. In a statement, Harvard said Milbank was never involved in deciding which events to fund and that the school will now pay for student events with other resources.

Harvard says Milbank wanted to "avoid creating any misimpressions that the firm endorses the viewpoints expressed by any particular student organization or journal," according to the statement, provided by law school spokesman Robb London.

In October, students in Justice for Palestine hosted a talk examining what they say is a movement to suppress advocates of Palestine. Harvard had previously awarded the group $2,000 to hold events throughout the semester using the Milbank donation. The group says it spent about $500 for pizza at the fall discussion.

Before the event, an email from the law school's dean told the group that Milbank's logo must be "prominently displayed" on all advertisements. In that spirit, the group thanked the law firm in a Facebook page advertising the event, said Collin Poirot, a first-year Harvard law student and a member of the organization.

The next day, law school administrators asked the group to remove all references to Milbank on their Facebook page, citing complaints from the law firm, Poirot said. And soon after, students were notified that the Milbank Student Conference Fund was being discontinued.