Claudine Gay To Remain Harvard President After Support From Harvard Corporation

Harvard’s first Black president has faced calls for ouster over her response to campus antisemitism.

Harvard University’s embattled President Claudine Gay will remain in office after Harvard’s top governing board gave its full support amid calls for removal over her congressional testimony on campus antisemitism. 

“In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay,” the Harvard Corporation said in a statement on Tuesday (Dec. 12).

Gay, the first Black president at Harvard, has apologized for her remarks at a Dec. 5 congressional hearing at which lawmakers grilled Gay and two other elite university presidents about their school’s policy on antisemitism. 

The presidents came under fire after they failed to denounce unequivocally antisemitic speech on campus in the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Pressure Grows On Harvard President To Resign After Congressional Hearing On Campus Antisemitism

University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill, one of the three presidents who testified last week, resigned Saturday (Dec. 9) under pressure to step down.

But Gay received a groundswell of support from many in Harvard’s community. CNN reported that more than 700 Harvard faculty members signed a petition supporting Gay.  Additionally, more than 800 Black alumni signed a support letter commending Gay’s “commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racism” while weighing complicated issues.

Ahead of the Harvard Corporation’s meeting, the Executive Committee of Harvard University’s Alumni Association announced their unreserved support.

“President Gay is the right leader to guide the University during this challenging time,” the committee wrote in a letter to school officials. “She is thoughtful. She is kind. She is resolutely dedicated to the growth and wellbeing of our very diverse community. We recognize that there was disappointment in her testimony this past week. 

At the same time, Gay faced outcry from other Harvard community members who demanded her ouster.

“As a result of President Gay’s failure to enforce Harvard’s own rules, Jewish students, faculty and others are fearful for their own safety as even the physical abuse of students remains unpunished,” wrote Bill Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund manager and major Harvard donor.

Ackman added, “In her short tenure as President, Claudine Gay has done more damage to the reputation of Harvard University than any individual in our nearly 500-year history.”

The Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper, reported that Gay was also under siege over allegations of plagiarism in her academic work, which added fuel to calls for her removal.

However, the Harvard Corporation cleared Gay in its Tuesday (Dec. 12) statement of support. An independent review of three articles found “a few instances of inadequate citation.”

“While the analysis found no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct, President Gay is proactively requesting four corrections in two articles to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications,” the corporation’s statement said.

At the Dec. 5 House Education Committee public hearing, lawmakers asked tough questions to Gay, Magill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Sally Kornbluth about whether school policies banned calling for the genocide of Jews.

 “At Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment? Yes or no?” Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, asked Gay.

“It can be, depending on the context,” Gay replied.

Following backlash against all three presidents, Gay attempted to clarify her answers. However, that didn’t satisfy her critics. Gay then apologized, saying, “I am sorry. Words matter.” 

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