Claudine Gay is speaking out following her resignation as Harvard’s first Black president on Tuesday. In an op-ed published in the New York Times, she addresses this decision — which comes after accusations of her previous academic work being plagiarized and backlash surrounding her response to campus antisemitism. “For weeks, both I and the institution to which I’ve devoted my professional life have been under attack,” she writes. “My hope is that by stepping down I will deny demagogues the opportunity to further weaponize my presidency in their campaign to undermine the ideals animating Harvard since its founding: excellence, openness, independence, truth.” Keep reading for more details on Gay’s op-ed and the contributing factors that led to her resignation.
Key Points From Claudine Gay’s Op-Ed
Gay began her position as Harvard’s president on July 1, 2023. However, she first came under fire in October following the start of the Israel-Gaza War as many both on-campus and beyond felt that she didn’t condemn Hamas or antisemitism enough in the university’s initial statement. Shortly after, Gay’s credentials and credibility came into question, setting off a chain of events. This included allegations of plagiarizing her 1997 Ph.D. dissertation, “Taking Charge: Black Electoral Success and the Redefinition of American Policies”, from conservative activist Christopher Rufo.
She highlights this “campaign against her” in the op-ed — noting how it contributed to the wave of backlash that she experienced for weeks. “Campaigns of this kind often start with attacks on education and expertise, because these are the tools that best equip communities to see through propaganda,” she says. “But such campaigns don’t end there. Trusted institutions of all types — from public health agencies to news organizations — will continue to fall victim to coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy and ruin their leaders’ credibility.”
While Gay took this opportunity to speak her truth, she also acknowledged her self-described “mistakes” throughout the situation. “I neglected to clearly articulate that calls for the genocide of Jewish people are abhorrent and unacceptable and that I would use every tool at my disposal to protect students from that kind of hate,” she adds.
Towards the end of the op-ed, Gay notes she will return to teaching and scholarship – with a continued focus on access and opportunity for all students as well as leading with courage. “Because it is courage that has buoyed me throughout my career and it is courage that is needed to stand up to those who seek to undermine what makes universities unique in American life,” she says.
What’s Next for Gay Following Her Resignation
Although Gay resigned as Harvard’s president, she’ll remain at the university as a professor of Government and of African and African-American Studies. According to a recent statement from Harvard, the search for a new president will be underway soon.
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