Just a day after refusing President Donald Trump’s call to return $8.6 million in federal Covid-19 bailout money, Harvard University has changed its mind about keeping it, citing “intense focus by politicians” in its decision.
The Ivy League university revealed on Wednesday that it would refuse the money it had been allotted under last month’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus bailout, complaining in a statement about being singled out for “intense focus by politicians and others.”
Despite having the world’s largest university endowment, valued at $41 billion as of June, Harvard had just the previous day defied Trump’s request that it return the money, claiming it planned to use 100 percent of the funds for student financial assistance.
Trump was far from alone in highlighting the unfairness of an elite university, with more wealth than many countries, receiving emergency funding while Americans struggled to keep small businesses afloat. Several members of Congress had also protested the “obscene” giveaway.
It’s not clear what really triggered Harvard’s change of heart, given that circumstances cited in its statement – political scrutiny and “evolving guidance” regarding the use of the bailout money – already existed on Tuesday, when the school vowed to keep the money. However, its about-face came less than 24 hours after Trump threatened via Twitter to have the school’s “whole ‘endowment’ system…looked at” if it did not give the money back “now.”
The university has since promised to encourage the Department of Education to “act swiftly to reallocate resources previously allocated to Harvard,” hinting that it hopes the money goes to some other deserving Massachusetts institution. Harvard promised it would fulfill its responsibilities toward students without the federal grant.
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