Malcolm Gladwell Has Some Words for Guy Who Gave $400 Million to Harvard

Harvard University, which recently amended its sexual assault policies after heavy criticism in spring.
A man walks through Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 16, 2012. Harvard recently amended its sexual assault policies after heavy criticism in spring. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Updated | There are many generous and urgently needed uses of $400 million, but a donation to Harvard University—which already boasts the largest academic endowment in the known universe—is not one of them.

So says New Yorker scribe and Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell, who responded to billionaire John Paulson's unprecedented $400 million gift to his alma mater with a scathing and sarcastic Twitter rant. Paulson's donation, which is intended for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is said to be the biggest in Harvard's history.

"One would have thought that someone from the world of business would have the good sense to avoid investments with a marginal utility of zero," Gladwell said in an email to Newsweek.

On Twitter, the writer scolded high-paid hedge fund manager Paulson for "giving the world's richest university $400 mil it doesn't need":

...and joked that Paulson should try "volunteering" at a high-end luxury shop in Manhattan.

Gladwell also mockingly warned that Harvard might soon be down to its "last $30 billion." (The school's endowment is in fact around $36 billion.)

Paulson is just the latest rich guy to open is checkbook to Harvard to the tune of hundreds of millions.

As Slate put it in 2014, after Kenneth Griffin gave $150 million to the Ivy school: "You would almost certainly do more good with this money by picking 1,500 people at random and mailing them each a check for $100,000."

Make that 4,000 random people.

This article has been updated to include a quote from Malcolm Gladwell.