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Major Northwestern donor rescinds support after university canceled him for alleged mean words

A major donor to Northwestern University — who says he’s given $7 million to the institution over the years — is no longer supporting his alma mater after it canceled him.

Businessman and entrepreneur Ben Slivka wrote on his personal website that he was rejected by his beloved Northwestern — he “bled purple” for decades — after saying rude things to three students, an allegation he denies.

In his post, which was republished by Heterodox STEM, Slivka wrote he was contacted by the chief diversity officer of NU’s Athletics Department telling him several student-athletes reported they were upset with comments he made that they deemed racist or sexist. He was told to refrain from any further contact with student-athletes in any way.

The directive from campus leadership was handed down in the fall of 2022, and he wrote he is telling his story now, one year later, “in the hopes that NU’s leadership will wake up to the fact that the ‘Safetyism’ they are practicing at NU is harming students: teaching them to fear words, damaging their mental health, and leaving them ill-prepared for the real world.”

The crux of the controversy centers on the alleged statements Slivka made:

… during a reception for the Women’s Cross-Country team at Walter Athletic Center, Mr. Slivka remarked to a student-athlete of Indian heritage that everyone should “travel to India to see how poor people really live.” The student expressed that this was not her experience and Mr. Slivka inquired what her parents do for work. She responded that they are both engineers and to this, Mr. Slivka said that “oh, you are a good Indian then, not a poor Indian.” Mr. Slivka then stated that the country smells bad because they burn feces there.

Mr. Slivka remarked to student-athletes from Australia: “isn’t America just the best?” and that “immigrants are taking all of the jobs” in America. He did then express that immigrants are hard-working and that this isn’t a bad thing.

Mr. Slivka also questioned a 2021 graduate on how she already had a baby and commented that “wow, that’s a quick turnaround.” He asked if this was a planned pregnancy.

These are not my words! But even if they were, does the punishment fit the crime?

I have worked with and befriended many thousands of Indians, immigrants, and women. I often recommend that Americans visit India – I’ve been twice for a total of 36 days – as it is so different from America. I have seen people collecting and drying cow dung in India, but I have never smelled it burning. Six of the twenty technology start-ups I have invested in were founded by Indians and/or immigrants. I am a big proponent of dramatically increasing legal immigration. As for the 2021 graduate with a baby, it is possible that I said “wow, that’s a quick turnaround.” But I did not ask if it was a “planned pregnancy.”

And that is my motivation for writing now: 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.

Slivka also pointed out NU is ranked No. 242 out of 248 schools for free speech, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s free speech rankings.

He wrote that given “my baffling treatment by NU, I no longer ‘bleed purple’, and my volunteer time and dollars are directed to other more worthy causes. What a shame for current and future NU students and faculty that my 45-year Northwestern connection has ended this way.”

MORE: Check out The College Fix’s Campus Cancel Culture Database

IMAGE: Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.