Harvard’s First Black President Resigns Amidst Controversy


FILE - Harvard University President Claudine Gay speaks during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, Dec. 5, 2023, in Washington. Gay resigned Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, amid plagiarism accusations and criticism over testimony at a congressional hearing where she was unable to say unequivocally that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate the school’s conduct policy. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
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Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s first Black president, has tendered her resignation after just a few months in office. Gay took on the role in July, marking a historic moment for the prestigious institution.

In her resignation letter to the Harvard community, Gay expressed her hope of how her tenure would be remembered.

“When my brief presidency is remembered, I hope it will be seen as a moment of reawakening to the importance of striving to find our common humanity—and of not allowing rancor and vituperation to undermine the vital process of education,” she wrote.

However, Gay’s tenure was marred by controversy, particularly surrounding her response to concerns about antisemitism on campus. During a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, where the House Committee on Education and the Workforce focused on antisemitism, accusations were levied against Gay for not adequately addressing the rising antisemitism among students and faculty. The hearing was prompted by the surge in antisemitic incidents at top universities following the October terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas.

Critics pointed to what they deemed as President Gay’s equivocation during the December 5 hearing. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the Committee chair, released a statement Tuesday in response to Gay’s resignation, expressing her dismay for the former Harvard President’s comments during the hearing.

“What the world saw from President Gay on December 5 was repeated equivocation – and no one has forgotten it since. It is particularly appalling that on the day following the hearing, President Gay released a statement blaming members of the public for holding her to account – and rightfully calling out her evasiveness. Then there are allegations after allegations of plagiarism – this academically dishonest behavior is appalling. While President Gay’s resignation is welcome news, the problems at Harvard are much larger than one leader and the Committee’s oversight will continue,” Foxx said.

President Gay also faced additional scrutiny over allegations of plagiarism, with The Harvard Crimson reporting corrections would be made to her 1997 Ph.D. dissertation. Parts of the dissertation were reportedly not properly cited.

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