Harvard University President Claudine Gay Resigns

Dr. Gay, celebrated as Harvard's first Black president, is stepping down after controversial comments made before Congress last month.

Dr. Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard University, who has for several weeks withstood pressure over her response to campus antisemitism and allegations of plagiarism, has resigned after only six months in her position.

The Harvard Crimson, the Ivy League school’s campus publication, reported the development on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 2), saying the Harvard Corporation was expected to announce the resignation later in the day. Alan M. Garber, provost and chief academic officer, will become interim president and named so by the Board of Trustees, according to

In a personal letter posted on Harvard’s website, she called her short tenure an “honor” and said the division that rose during her tenure was “painful."

“Amidst all of this, it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to 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,” she wrote.

Gay, 53, who was the first Black person to run Harvard, initially ran into trouble shortly after the Israel-Gaza conflict erupted in October 2023 when Hamas launched an attack into Israel, spawning a deadly war where a reported 22,000 people have been killed. Protests on multiple college campuses followed and reports of antisemitism on Harvard’s campus surfaced when pro-Palestinian students staged demonstrations.

In early December 2023, a House Education Committee held hearings to question Gay, and also the then-president of the University of Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Magill, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Sally Kornbluth on similar controversies on those campuses. Magill resigned on Dec. 11, while Kornbluth remains in her role.

While under questioning, Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, asked direct questions about whether school policies banned calling for the genocide of Jews. Gay said that the school does take action, but also that context matters. However, her answer left Stefanik and others dissatisfied, leaving her to apologize for not being more clear.

“I am sorry. Words matter,” Gay said in her response to the backlash.“When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret.”

Dr. Claudine Gaye

Claudine Gay Becomes First Black President Of Harvard University

But a conservative effort vocally led by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, whose comments have been criticized as racist and misogynistic, kept the pressure on Gay, focusing on allegations of plagiarism in as many as 40 of her academic writings. An anonymous accuser sent examples of the allegations to the conservative publication The Washington Free Beacon, accusing Gay of plagiaristic activity, and an investigation by Harvard found instances of citations that were not adequate, according to the New York Times.

Fellow academic and journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones joined a loud outcry against these attacks on Gay, pointing out what she called a coverup for conservative opposition to campus diversity and inclusion.

“So they’re using the guise of pretending that this is about concern over antisemitism, which is, of course, something that all of us should be concerned about. It’s really just furthering their propaganda campaign against racial equity,” Jones said during an appearance on CNN

After learning of the resignation, she posted her displeasure on social media:

Gay also had the support of the Harvard Corporation, which makes decisions on the hiring of the school’s leadership. “In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay,” the Harvard Corporation said in a statement on Dec. 12.

Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN), issued a statement on Gay's resignation, saying in part, “President Gay’s resignation is about more than a person or a single incident. This is an attack on every Black woman in this country who’s put a crack in the glass ceiling. It’s an assault on the health, strength, and future of diversity, equity, and inclusion—at a time when Corporate America is trying to back out of billions of dollars in commitments."

CNN reported 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.

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.”

Nonetheless, Gay continued to face public blasting from Ackman and others, who directly called for her to be ousted.

“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,” he wrote.

“President Gay’s resignation is about more than a person or a single incident. This is an attack on every Black woman in this country who’s put a crack in the glass ceiling. It’s an assault on the health, strength, and future of diversity, equity, and inclusion—at a time when Corporate America is trying to back out of billions of dollars in commitments. Most of all, this was the result of Bill Ackman’s relentless campaign against President Gay, not because of her leadership or credentials but because he felt she was a DEI hire.

A Celebrated Rise

Harvard announced Gay as its 30th president in December 2022 and she was inaugurated on Sept. 29, 2023. She replaced previous president Lawrence S. Bacow, who announced in June that he would step down after the 2022–2023 academic year.

“I stand before you today humbled by the prospect of leading Harvard, emboldened by the trust you have placed in me, and energized by your own commitment to this singular institution and to the common cause of higher education,” she said in her inauguration speech. 

She served as an associate professor and then a tenured associate professor at Stanford before returning to Harvard in 2006 to become a professor of government. She was made a professor of African and African American studies in 2007. In 2015, she was named the Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government before becoming the Edgerley Family Dean of the school’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2018.

What's next for Gay? She says she will return to a faculty position, according to her letter. Undoubtedly, the news leaves a question as to how Harvard, which was one of the targets of a lawsuit that derailed affirmative action in higher education, will approach diversity with its first Black president forced out under what many critics will call duress.

Keith Boykin, a former aide to the Clinton Administration, was one of many voices frustrated with how Gay’s tenure was brought to an end, saying on X (formally known as Twitter: “Conservatives will use Claudine Gay’s resignation at Harvard to launch new racist attacks on affirmative action and DEI. But when white men face controversy, the same conservatives don’t attribute failure to the person’s race or gender.”

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