Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned from her position Tuesday after facing backlash over her response to antisemitism on campus and a plagiarism scandal.
Gay announced her resignation “with a heavy heart,” and said her stepping down is in the “best interest” of the university.
“It is with a heavy heart but a deep love for Harvard that I write to share that I will be stepping down as president,” Gay wrote in a statement. “This is not a decision I came to easily. Indeed, it has been difficult beyond words because I have looked forward to working with so many of you to advance the commitment to academic excellence that has propelled this great university across centuries.”
Gay’s resignation makes her tenure the shortest in the Ivy League university’s history, only serving six months and two days in her position, according to The Harvard Crimson, the university’s school paper. It is currently unknown who will be appointed to serve as an interim president in Gay’s place.
The now-former president faced intense scrutiny after attending a congressional hearing over the response to the growing antisemitism on the campus following the barbarous Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel. She refused to answer Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik’s repeated questioning on whether actions would be taken to counter antisemitism on the campus.
— The Harvard Crimson (@thecrimson) January 2, 2024
“Will admissions offers be rescinded or any disciplinary action be taken against students or applicants who say ‘From the river to the sea’ or ‘intifada’ advocating for the murder of Jews?” Stefanik asked during a Dec. 5 hearing.
“As I have said, that type of hateful, reckless, offensive speech is personally abhorrent to me,” Gay said in response.
“What action will be taken?” Stefanik questioned, to which Gay said actions would not be taken against students’ free speech.
She later clarified that students calling for violence against Jewish students “will be held to account” in a Dec. 6 statement, which caused major backlash from the public.
“There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students,” Gay said. “Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”
Statement from President Gay: There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic…
— Harvard University (@Harvard) December 6, 2023
Gay apologized for remarks during the congressional hearing in a Dec. 9 statement to The Harvard Crimson.
“I am sorry,” Gay told The Crimson. “Words matter. 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.”
Over 30 student groups signed a letter placing blame on Israel for the deadly attack carried out by Hamas, and over 100 Harvard faculty signed a letter defending the antisemitic phrase, “From the river to the sea.” Gay released a statement saying the letter does not reflect the stance taken by the university.
The university is currently under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights due to the rise in antisemitism, according to The Harvard Crimson. The investigation launched in response to a compliant accusing Harvard of inadequately responding to reports of rising antisemitism across campus.
Gay additionally faced allegations of plagiarizing in her publications and dissertation more than 40 times. The first complaint, published Dec. 19 by the Washington Free Beacon, brought forth charges against seven of her works. A second complaint brought forth an eighth work, a 2001 article that allegedly lifts almost half a page from University of Wisconsin political science professor David Cannon.
Media reporter. Follow Nicole Silverio on Twitter @NicoleMSilverio.
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