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Northwestern cancels wealthy former trustee over false racism allegations

Northwestern University allegedly canceled a former trustee who has donated “given over 7,000 volunteer hours and over $7 million,” based on false racism allegations. The donor shared his experience in a recent essay.

Former Microsoft executive Ben Slivka said the university ordered him to stop talking to student-athletes because several alleged he made racially insensitive comments. That came as shock to Slivka because he said he never made the comments and he has consistently supported Northwestern. A cafe on campus is named after his wife and a residential building is named Slivka Hall.

He wrote on his personal website:

I served as an NU trustee for 20 years (1998-2018), I hosted new student parties at my home near Seattle for 16 years, I met with over 400 students in Evanston 1-on-1 at their request, and I spoke on campus regularly. I also met with over 200 faculty members 1-on-1, as well as many department chairs and deans. Slivka Hall has been home to 140 students/year since opening in 2002, Lisa’s Café helps feed North Campus, and Lisa and I created several endowments to support computer science and undergraduate research.

But he relates that for the past year he has remained canceled after the chief diversity officer for the athletics department wrote him and said “several student-athletes reported…they were upset with comments by you that they deemed racist and/or sexist.”

The diversity officer asked him to “refrain from any future arranged meetings with Northwestern’s student-athletes…we also would appreciate it if you do not contact student-athletes directly, either by phone, in person, or through social media.”

Slivka reached out to university President Michael Schill, only to eventually hear back from the school’s attorney with the allegations.

The alleged comments include Slivka asking a 2021 graduate if her baby was a “planned pregnancy,” saying immigrants are taking jobs from Americans and saying India was poor and it smells because people “burn feces there,” according to the counsel’s paraphrase.

“These are not my words! But even if they were, does the punishment fit the crime?” he wrote.

Slivka said “the NU community needs to wake up to the fact that NU is harming students…in the name of protecting students!”

“It has been nearly a year, and NU has yet to apologize, withdraw its ‘cancellation,’ or modify its policies to guarantee due process and free speech rights to all members of the NU community.”

Read the essay.

IMAGE: Ben Slivka/Internet History Podcast

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