Harvard tries to weather storm caused by resignation of school president Claudine Gay

Harvard University on Wednesday sought to move past the storm caused by plagiarism allegations, congressional testimony and the resignation of Claudine Gaye, the school's first black president, as it searches for a new leader and tries to heal divisions. at the elite Ivy League school.

The search for a new president will begin “in due course” and include “broad engagement and consultation with the Harvard community,” the Harvard Corporation, the school's 11-member governing board, said in a statement Tuesday, adding that it would be guided by “core values of excellence, inclusiveness and freedom of inquiry and expression”.

“At a time when strife and division are so prevalent in our nation and our world, embracing and advancing this mission — in a spirit of common purpose — has never been more important,” the leadership said.

As it searches for a new president, the company must also consider its role in gay representation in Congress, according to Khalil Gibran Muhammad, who teaches history, race and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and directs the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project.

Muhammad said Harvard capitulated to “a McCarthy-style political attack” by accepting Gay's resignation and did not call out the “misinformation and outright lies” leveled at her by Republican critics, which he described as a “political witch hunt.”

“The first mistake was accepting the terms of the congressional investigation as legitimate,” said Muhammad, who added that he was equally concerned about another person of color stepping in as president and “having to bear the burden of wrongful accusations and murder characters associated with racial identity'.

The school has selected Alan M. Garber, professor and chief academic officer, to serve as interim president until a permanent replacement is named.

Gay is the second Ivy League president to resign in the past month following congressional testimony: Liz Magill, president of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned on Dec. 9.

After the congressional hearing, Gay's academic career came under intense scrutiny from conservative activists who discovered several instances of alleged plagiarism in her 1997 doctoral dissertation.

The Harvard firm initially rallied behind Gay, saying a review of her scientific work found “some instances of inadequate reporting” but no evidence of research misconduct. Days later, the company said it had found two additional examples of “unproperly rendered duplicate language.”

Gay's resignation was celebrated by conservatives who focused on her alleged plagiarism.

“Two Down. One to Go.” New York Rep. Elise Stefanik said Wednesday in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “Your silence is deafening @MIT. Not even an apology issued by your school to date. And zero engagement from your school to fight anti-Semitism and protect Jewish students.”

Gay, Magill and MIT President Sally Kornbluth came under fire last month for their legal responses to a series of questions from Harvard graduate Stefanik, who asked whether “calling for the genocide of the Jews” would violate the college codes. behavior. Kornbluth kept her job.

The three presidents were called before the Republican House Education and Workforce Committee to respond to accusations that universities are failing to protect Jewish students amid growing fears of anti-Semitism worldwide and the fallout from Israel's escalating war in Gaza.

Gay later apologized, telling the student newspaper The Crimson that she was involved in a heated exchange and failed to properly report threats of violence against Jewish students.

“What I should have had the presence of mind to do at that moment was to 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 they will never go unchallenged,” Gay said.

John Pelissero, an ethics fellow at Santa Clara University, said the rancor that led to Gay's departure from the presidency is emblematic of how national politics has infiltrated institutions of higher learning.

“I think what's changed in universities in recent years is that there's a lot more political control over what happens on campuses and what kind of learning culture there is versus a political or ideological culture,” he said.

The episode tarnished Gay's tenure at Harvard — she became president in July — and sowed discord on the Ivy League campus.

Gay, who is returning to the school's faculty, said in her resignation letter that “it is saddening to call into question my commitments to countering hate and supporting academic rigor — two core values ​​that are fundamental to who I am — and terrifying to be subject to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animosity'.