CAMBRIDGE – December 13, 2023
Harvard President Claudine Gay will continue in her role, backed by unanimous support from the university’s highest governing body, the Harvard Corporation, as announced on Tuesday. 3 In a statement, the corporation expressed solidarity with President Gay during what they described as a tumultuous period.
The controversy surrounding Gay and the presidents of MIT and the University of Pennsylvania escalated last week when they testified before Congress about anti-Semitism on college campuses. Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik questioned Gay about Harvard’s policies regarding the genocide of Jews, leading to widespread criticism.
Following the testimonies, more than 70 members of Congress, predominantly Republicans, called for the resignation of all three presidents. University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned last Saturday. President Gay later expressed regret, acknowledging the impact of words and issuing an apology to the Harvard Crimson.
In a display of support, hundreds of Harvard faculty members signed a letter urging the university’s governing boards to resist external pressures to force Gay’s resignation. The Harvard Corporation convened to discuss Gay’s future on Monday and, in a statement released on Tuesday morning, reaffirmed their confidence in her leadership.
The corporation acknowledged Gay’s commitment to intensifying the university’s fight against anti-Semitism and addressed allegations of plagiarism in her PhD thesis. The statement clarified that an independent review revealed instances of inadequate citation, though no violation of Harvard’s research misconduct standards was found. President Gay is proactively seeking corrections for the identified issues.
As the first Black president of Harvard University, Gay assumed her role less than a semester ago. Previous controversies arose in the fall after Harvard organizations attributed blame to Israel for an attack by Hamas, prompting a subsequent statement from Gay distancing the university from such perspectives.
Harvard Campus Rabbi Getzel Davis expressed support for President Gay’s leadership, stating, “We look forward to continuing to work with President Gay and other senior Harvard administrators on educational programs and enforcing policies to protect Jewish students.”
Despite the challenges, some students, like Harvard junior Soleil Saint-Cyr, emphasized the need to have faith in leadership decisions, noting that controversies emerged relatively recently in Gay’s tenure.
Meanwhile, MIT President Sally Kornbluth, also under scrutiny, has refused to resign, with the school’s governing board expressing “full and unreserved support” for her leadership. The developments underscore the complex dynamics and challenges faced by university leaders in navigating issues of sensitivity and controversy.