Harvard President Claudine Gay quit amid plagiarism and campus antisemitism allegations


Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, resigned Tuesday after plagiarism allegations and criticism over testimony at a congressional hearing in which she was unable to state unequivocally that demands on campus for the murder of Jews would violate the school’s behavior policy.

Gay is the second Ivy League president to quit in the last month in the aftermath of the congressional hearing – Liz Magill, president of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned on December 9.

Gay, Harvard’s first Black president, announced her resignation in a letter to the Harvard community just months into her position.

Following the congressional hearing, conservative activists scrutinized Gay’s academic record, uncovering multiple instances of alleged plagiarism in her 1997 doctoral dissertation. The Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing board, initially supported Gay, claiming that a study of her scholarly work revealed “a few instances of inadequate citation” but no indication of scientific misconduct.

Days later, the Harvard Corporation announced that it had discovered two further instances of “duplicative language without appropriate attribution.” Gay was told by the board that she would update her dissertation and request corrections.

The departure was accepted “with great sadness” by the Harvard Corporation, which commended Gay for her “deep and unwavering commitment to Harvard and the pursuit of academic excellence.”

The board of trustees announced that Alan M. Garber, provost and chief academic officer, will serve as interim president until a replacement is found. Garber, an economist and physician, has been provost for the past 12 years.

Harvard President Claudine Gay quit amid plagiarism and campus antisemitism allegations

Gay’s departure was welcomed by conservatives who had brought her alleged plagiarism to national attention – with new plagiarism allegations appearing as recently as Monday in The Washington Free Beacon, a right newspaper.

Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist who helped galvanize Republicans against higher education, said he’s “glad she’s gone.”

“Rather than take responsibility for minimizing antisemitism, committing serial plagiarism, intimidating the free press, and damaging the institution, she calls her critics racist,” Rufo said on X, which was previously known as Twitter. “This is the poison” of the diversity, equality, and inclusion worldview, according to Rufo, who has led conservative attacks on DEI in business and education.

Gay, in her letter, stated that 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.”

However, Gay, who will return to the faculty, stated that “it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge.”

Yoel Zimmermann, a visiting research undergrad from Munich, Germany, studying physics at Harvard, stated that as a Jewish student, he has observed fellow members of the Jewish community feeling uneasy about the school climate.

“I think it was about time that Claudine Gay resigned,” Zimmerman added. “She just did too many things wrong, particularly in her testimony before Congress.” “I believe that was the kind of final straw that should have resulted in her immediate removal.”

Gay’s supporters were disappointed by her resignation.

“Racist mobs will not stop until they remove all Black people from positions of power and influence who are not reinforcing the structure of racism,” said award-winning novelist Ibram X. Kendi, who survived an investigation into an antiracist research center he founded at Boston University, in an Instagram post.

In a statement, the Rev. Al Sharpton called the demand on Gay to resign an “attack on every Black woman in this country who’s broken through the glass ceiling” and an “assault on the health, strength, and future of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Her choice was applauded by critics.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, welcomed Gay’s retirement but said Harvard’s problems are much wider than one leader.

Harvard President Claudine Gay quit amid plagiarism and campus antisemitism allegations

“Postsecondary education is in a tailspin,” the Republican from North Carolina said in a statement. “There has been a hostile takeover of postsecondary education by political activists, woke faculty, and partisan administrators.”

In a statement on X, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz also commented on Gay’s departure.

“A little background. A lack of leadership and denial of antisemitism comes at a cost. “I hope Harvard University will learn from this heinous behavior,” he wrote.

Gay, Magill, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth were chastised last month for their lawyerly responses to New York Rep. Elise Stefanik’s question on whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate the colleges’ rules of conduct.

The three presidents were summoned before the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce to answer allegations that universities were failing to protect Jewish students in the face of rising antisemitism worldwide and the fallout from Israel’s intensifying war in Gaza, which has drawn increased criticism for the rising Palestinian death toll.

Gay said it depended on the context, but that “speech crosses into conduct, and that violates our policies.” The response drew immediate criticism from Republican and Democratic politicians, as well as the White House. The hearing was made fun of in the opening skit of “Saturday Night Live.”

Gay later apologized, telling The Crimson student newspaper that she became embroiled in a heated discussion at the House committee meeting and failed to adequately condemn threats of violence against Jewish students.

“What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged,” he added.

Gay’s presidency at Harvard was tainted by the incident, which created strife on the Ivy League campus. Later, Rabbi David Wolpe resigned from Gay’s new anti-antisemitism committee, writing on X that “events on campus and the painfully inadequate testimony reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped.”

Days after the hearing, the House committee said that it would look into the policies and disciplinary procedures at Harvard, MIT, and Penn. In response to allegations filed with the US Education Department, separate federal civil rights investigations were launched at Harvard, Penn, and numerous other universities.

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