Harvard president resigns amid plagiarism claims

Claudine Gay announces her departure, which comes just months into her tenure, in a letter to the Harvard community

By AP

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Dr Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 5, 2023 in Washington, DC. — AFP file
Dr Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 5, 2023 in Washington, DC. — AFP file

Published: Tue 2 Jan 2024, 10:59 PM

Last updated: Tue 2 Jan 2024, 11:02 PM

Harvard University President Claudine Gay resigned on Tuesday 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.

Gay announced her departure, which came just months into her tenure, in a letter to the Harvard community.

She and the presidents of MIT and the University of Pennsylvania came under fire last month for their lawyerly answers to a line of questioning from New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who asked whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate the colleges’ code of conduct. The three presidents had been called before the Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce to answer accusations that universities were failing to protect Jewish students amid rising fears of antisemitism worldwide and fallout from Israel’s intensifying war in Gaza, which faces heightened criticism for the mounting Palestinian death toll.

Gay said it depended on the context, adding that when “speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies.” The answer faced swift backlash from Republican and some Democratic lawmakers as well as the White House. The hearing was parodied in the opening skit on “Saturday Night Live.”

Gay later apologised, telling the The Crimson student newspaper that she got caught up in a heated exchange at the House committee hearing and failed to properly denounce threats of violence against Jewish students.

“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,” Gay said.

The episode marred Gay’s early tenure at Harvard — she became president in July — and sowed discord at the Ivy League campus. On Thursday, Rabbi David Wolpe resigned from a new committee on antisemitism created by Gay, saying in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that “events on campus and the painfully inadequate testimony reinforced the idea that I cannot make the sort of difference I had hoped.”

The House committee announced on Thursday it will investigate the policies and disciplinary procedures at Harvard, MIT and Penn. Separate federal civil rights investigations were previously opened at Harvard, Penn and several other universities in response to complaints submitted to the US Education Department.


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