Embattled Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned Tuesday after her congressional testimony on the university’s response to anti-Semitic protests last month sparked an intense backlash. Gay has also faced multiple allegations that many of her past publications were plagiarized, in violation of Harvard’s policies on academic integrity.
As Harvard’s first Black president, Gay has had the shortest tenure in the university’s history, according to the Harvard Crimson.
“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 with a focus on the institution rather than any individual,” Gay wrote in her resignation letter to the campus community. She said she will return to Harvard’s faculty.
On December 5, Gay, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth appeared before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and each were grilled about how they’ve handled the explosion of antisemitism on their respective campuses since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) asked the three if calls for the genocide of Jewish people during pro-Palestinian protests on their campuses qualified as bullying or harassment under their respective school codes of conduct.
Gay appeared to minimize antisemitism on campus in her unsatisfactory replies, and was accused of holding a double standard in how she treated different political groups on campus.
Magill and Kornbluth gave similar answers during the hearing, outraging Jewish groups, prominent alumni, lawmakers from both parties, and even the the White House.
The governing boards of Harvard and MIT stood by their embattled presidents in December amidst a firestorm of disapproval.
After the hearing, Magill stepped down from her post at the University of Pennsylvania under pressure from donors, but MIT’s president Sally Kornbluth and Gay remained in their roles.
Gay did apologize for her comments in a statement, saying she “failed to convey what is my truth.”
Meanwhile, conservative journalists, most notably the Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo and the American Conservative’s Chris Brunet, investigated Gay’s past writings and discovered multiple instances of plagiarism.
The New York Times expanded on their allegations of plagiarism in a report on Tuesday.
A university spokesperson said in a statement provided to Axios last month that Gay will submit updates to her 1997 dissertation about Black electoral success, “which will add quotations and citations.”
The Republican-led House Education and Workforce Committee has launched an investigation into Harvard and is also investigating Gay’s alleged plagiarism.
Harvard’s governing board said Gay did not violate the university’s research misconduct standards in her published works. The House committee, however, expanded its probe into the university on Dec. 20, saying allegations against Gay were “credible.”
In her letter, Gay cast herself as a victim of racial hostility who is dedicated to “combatting bias and hate in all its forms.”
“Amidst all of this, it is 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, Gay wrote.
I believe in the people of Harvard because I see in you the possibility and the promise of a better future. These last weeks have helped make clear the work we need to do to build that future—to combat bias and hate in all its forms, to create a learning environment in which we respect each other’s dignity and treat one another with compassion, and to affirm our enduring commitment to open inquiry and free expression in the pursuit of truth.
“Rather than take responsibility for minimizing antisemitism, committing serial plagiarism, intimidating the free press, and damaging the institution, she calls her critics racist,” Rufo noted on X. “This is the poison of DEI ideology. Glad she’s gone.”
Rep. Stefanik also celebrated the news on X.
“TWO DOWN,” she wrote. “Harvard knows that this long overdue forced resignation of the antisemitic plagiarist president is just the beginning of what will be the greatest scandal of any college or university in history.”
TWO DOWN. @Harvard knows that this long overdue forced resignation of the antisemitic plagiarist president is just the beginning of what will be the greatest scandal of any college or university in history.https://t.co/ZJLxrHw1Zd
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) January 2, 2024
In his own victory lap, Rufo taunted critics “I was right. You were wrong. Gay is gone.”
To all of my critics who snidely dismissed me as a "bad-faith actor" and a "cartoon villain": I was right. You were wrong. Gay is gone.
The world of politics cannot be divided neatly between "good actors" and "bad actors." Reality is not a Marvel movie; politics is not a child's…
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) January 2, 2024
In a subsequent post, Rufo predicted that “this is the beginning of the end for DEI in America’s institutions.”
He added: “We will expose you. We will outmaneuver you. And we will not stop fighting until we have restored colorblind equality in our great nation.”