On January 2, 2024, Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard University resigned after worldwide criticism over controversial congressional testimony refusing to condemn calls for the genocide of the Jews on the varsity of campus and allegations of plagiarism in her 1997 PhD Thesis.
Claudine Gay’s presidency was the shortest of any Harvard President since the foundation of the institution was founded in 1636. She was the second woman president of the university and also the first black president as well. In her resignation thesis, she played the victim card alleging racial attacks.
“It is with a heavy heart, but a deep love of Harvard that I write to share that I will be stepping down as president”, Gay wrote. “My deep sense of connection to Harvard and its people has made it all the more painful to witness the tensions and divisions that have riven in our community in recent months, weakening bonds of trust and reciprocity that should be a source of our strength and support in times of crisis.
Amidst all of this, it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitment to confronting hate and upholding scholarly rigor two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am, and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus.”
I believe in the people of Harvard because I see in you the possibility and promise of a better future. These last weeks have helped make clear the work we need to do and build the future to combat bias and hate in all forms, the letter added.
Refusal to condemn Anti-Semitism
Interestingly, in her resignation letter, Gay invoked racial animus and personal attacks to claim victimhood. Claudine Gay said she finds it distressing that people are doubting her commitment to confront hate even when she blatantly refused to condemn calls for violence against Jews in the varsity. This comes after she apologized for her opprobrious refusal to take a clear and firm stand against rising anti-Semitism on campus.
It is worth calling that Gay’s apathy towards rising anti-Semitism on campus and her detrimental congressional testimony caused Rabbi David Wolpe, a visiting professor at Harvard Divinity School, to resign from a panel formed by Gay to advise on anti-Semitism since there was no sense of urgency, no sense of anger and no sense of disgust at the urgent crisis before them.
Target of Plagiarism
The Harvard President has been the target of plagiarism allegations for the past month raising concerns about her qualifications to lead the Ivy League School and further entangling the university in the debate over whether Harvard holds both its president and its students to the same standards. Interestingly, while Claudine Gay played the victim card over the backlash she faced and demands for her resignation, she did not mention anything about the allegations of plagiarising her PhD thesis.
After what some perceived as the university’s initial unwillingness to strongly denounce the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and certain pro-Palestinian student responses, Gay’s fledgling presidency started to erode.
Gay, who is a political science professor, will now return to her regular faculty position after a six-month tenure as a professor. Alan Garber, Harvard Provost and Chief Academic Officer, will serve as interim president. Interestingly, reports say that despite her resignation, Gay will still earn around USD 879,079 salary. Gay earned USD 879,079 as a Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean in 2021 and USD 824,068 in 2020 before being named president just six months ago, according to Harvard Crimson. It still remains unclear how much of the presidential salary of roughly USD one million, Gay would be entitled to after only serving in the post for six months. Gay’s predecessor, Lawrence Bacow, earned around USD 1.3 million annually before his departure.
Reaction from Elise Stefanik
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has reacted to Gay’s resignation and said that Gay’s resignation letter and the Harvard Corporation’s statement did not include an apology for the disastrous congressional testimony. Moreover, there was no mention of the varsity’s failure to protect Jewish students.
“Neither the resignation from Claudine Gay nor the statement from the Harvard Corporation included any apology for the morally bankrupt testimony. Neither statement included any mention of their failure to protect Jewish students on campus or a pledge to combat antisemitism. As I said, this is just the beginning of a reckoning,” Stefanik wrote on January 3, 2024, on X
This comes after a massive controversy erupted on 5th December 2023, during the first hearing on “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism” in Washington, DC. As reported earlier, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik confronted the Presidents of Harvard, MIT, and UPenn during the hearing over the issue of rising cases of antisemitism on their campuses.
During the hearing, Harvard University President Claudine Gay, MIT University President Sally Kornbluth, and UPenn President Elizabeth Magill refused to condemn the calls for the genocide of Jews on their respective campuses as bullying and harassment.
When asked to offer a simple “yes” or “no” answer on whether advocating for the murder of Jews would violate the university’s bullying and harassment policies, Harvard President Gay was seen giving bizarre excuses of context.
Anger against Gay’s Defenders
Taking to X, Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square, has expressed his utter disappointment over people defending Gay as he wrote, “I am not right wing. I operate only in good faith, and I am not a bully. I just pay attention to the facts and see where they take me. And Harvard did not roll over if you have been paying attention. She had the board’s publicly stated unanimous support only two or so weeks ago.
It is sad that you see the world in such a way that those you disagree with must somehow be right-wing and/or operating in bad faith. I find it hard to understand how one could conclude that Claudine Gay should have remained President of Harvard. What is the basis for your support for Gay? Is that calling for the genocide of the Jews not bullying or harassment? Please explain.”
Notably, Ackman earlier had declared that his companies would not hire those students who signed the pro-Hamas statement. As many prominent firms announced their decision not to consider hiring the signatories of the said joint statement, several of the signatories withdrew their signatures from the statement.