Dear Bill Ackman,
Congratulations on becoming a university reform icon overnight—and on publishing your views in The Free Press. I have to say that I’m impressed. We’ve written about campus free speech here, here, here, and here (this is the University of Chicago after all), but I’m afraid none of our pieces will be read as much as yours. Consider us officially jealous.
I have a small favor to ask. Would you please consider donating a few dollars to UChicago? We are the only elite university in America that already follows your vision for “real academic freedom,” but our endowment is a puny $10.4 billion. That pales compared to Harvard’s $49.4 billion.
If we want freedom to win and DEI to lose, America’s number-one university for free speech should be America’s number-one university period. And you can make that happen—especially if you recruit some of your freedom-loving, well-heeled philanthropist friends to help.
UChicago was thumbing its nose at DEI before it was cool. In 2016, our dean of students made national news for writing a letter denouncing “so-called trigger warnings” and “intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”
Before that, in 2014, UChicago issued its famous Chicago Principles, which became the national blueprint for university free speech protections. Before that, UChicago was pushing back against the Red Scare and even protecting the free speech rights of official Communists. No university on Earth can compare with that record of protecting free speech, not even Harvard or (cough cough) Yale.
To top it off, we put our trespassing Palestine protesters in handcuffs. (The charges were later dropped, maybe thanks to Chicago’s permissive district attorney, but still.)
UChicago is not a free speech paradise yet, but with your help we could get there. We have a bloated DEI bureaucracy, only four conservative professors (that I know of), and plenty of self-censorship (liberal sacred cows like gay marriage and climate policy are off-limits, of course).
Not only do we need your money, but your business skills would also come in handy. UChicago has been spending heavily to compete with the Ivies while earning low returns on its endowment, creating a financial crunch. Maybe you could use what you learned at Harvard Business School to fix that.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, consider this: Our school just launched an initiative that is literally begging to have your name on it.
It’s currently named the “University of Chicago Forum for Free Inquiry and Expression,” but it should really be named the Ackman Forum. After all, we already have a Rubenstein Forum, housed in a brutalist, ultramodern, and very Chicago-looking glass pancake stack (see drone footage here). Unlike David Rubenstein, you have not only artistic taste but a superstar architect wife. It’s only natural that we have a more aesthetically pleasing Ackman Forum to balance things out.
And, after Harvard ripped you off of the $70 million that you were maybe going to use for a free speech initiative over there, it’s only fair that you donate at least as much for a free speech initiative over here. That would be the zinger of the century, Mr. Ackman.
* The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.