Claudine Gay resigns as Harvard president after plagiarism accusations

Harvard President Claudine Gay announced her resignation on Tuesday, after her presidency was plunged into crisis over accusations of plagiarism and what some called her insufficient response to anti-Semitism on campus following Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7.

By announcing that she would resign immediately, Dr. Gay, Harvard’s first black president and the second woman to lead the university, ended a turbulent tenure that began last July. She will have the shortest term in office of any Harvard president since its founding in 1636.

Alan M. Garber, an economist and physician, provost and chief academic officer of Harvard, will be interim president. Dr. Gay will remain a tenured professor of government and African and African American studies.

Dr. Gay became the second university president to resign in recent weeks, after she and the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and MIT appeared at a Congressional hearing on December 5 in which they appeared evade the question of whether the students who called for the genocide of the Jews should be punished.

Penn President M. Elizabeth Magill resigned four days after that hearing. Sally Kornbluth, president of MIT, has also faced calls to resign.

In a letter announcing her decision, Dr. Gay said that after consulting with members of the university’s governing body, the Harvard Corporation, “it has become clear that it is in Harvard’s best interest for me to resign so that our community can navigate.” “This moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual.”

At the same time, Dr. Gay, 53, defended her academic record and suggested she was the target of very personal and racist attacks.

“In the midst of all this, it has been distressing to have my commitments to confront hate and uphold academic rigor – two core values ​​that are fundamental to who I am – called into question and terrifying to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial reasons. animosity,” he wrote.

Last year, news of Dr. Gay’s appointment was widely seen as a watershed moment for the university. The daughter of Haitian immigrants and an expert on minority representation and political participation in government, she took office just as the Supreme Court was rejecting the use of race-conscious admissions at Harvard and other universities.

He also became the prime target of some powerful graduates such as billionaire investor William A. Ackman, who was concerned about anti-Semitism and suggested in social media Last month, Harvard had only considered presidential candidates who met “the DEI office criteria,” referring to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Dr. Gay’s resignation came after the latest plagiarism allegations against her circulated in an unsigned complaint. published Monday in The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online magazine that has led a campaign against Dr. Gay in recent weeks.

He complaint It joined 40 other accusations of plagiarism that had already circulated in the magazine. The allegations raised questions about whether Harvard was holding its president to the same academic standards as its students.

Lawrence H. Summers, a former U.S. Treasury secretary who resigned as Harvard president under pressure in 2006, suggested that Dr. Gay had made the right decision. “I admire Claudine Gay for putting Harvard’s interests first in what I know must be a distressingly difficult time,” he said in an email.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who heads the House committee investigating Harvard and other universities, said the investigation would continue despite Dr. Gay’s resignation.

“There has been a hostile takeover of postsecondary education by political activists, woke professors, and partisan administrators,” Foxx said in a statement, adding, “The problems at Harvard are much bigger than a single leader.”

On the Harvard campus, some expressed deep dismay at what they described as a politically motivated campaign against Dr. Gay and higher education in general. Hundreds of professors had signed public letters asking Harvard’s board of trustees to resist pressure to remove Dr. Gay.

“This is a terrible moment,” said Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history, race and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School. “Republican leaders in Congress have declared war on the independence of colleges and universities, just as Governor DeSantis did in Florida. “They will only feel emboldened by Gay’s resignation.”

Some faculty members criticized how the secretive Harvard Corporation had handled the political attack and accusations of plagiarism.

Alison Frank Johnson, a history teacher, said she “couldn’t be more shocked.”

“Instead of making a decision based on established academic principles, we had public harassment here,” he said. “Instead of hearing voices from academics in their field who could speak to the importance and originality of their research, we hear voices of derision and spite on social media. Instead of following established university procedure, we had a corporation granting access to self-appointed advisors and conducting reviews using mysterious and undisclosed methods.”

Rumors about problems at Dr. Gay’s job circulated for months on anonymous message boards. But the first widely publicized report came on December 10, before Harvard’s board of trustees met to discuss Dr. Gay’s future after her disastrous testimony at the Congressional hearing.

That night, conservative activist Christopher Rufo published an essay in his Substack newsletter highlighting what he described as “problematic patterns of use and citation” in Dr. Gay’s 1997 doctoral dissertation.

The Washington Free Beacon published several articles detailing allegations related to his published academic articles and reported on two formal complaints filed with the College of Arts and Sciences’ Office of Research Integrity.

In a Dec. 12 statement saying Dr. Gay would remain in the role, the board acknowledged the allegations and said it had been informed in late October. The board said it had conducted an investigation and found “some instances of inappropriate citations” in two articles, which it said would be corrected. But the violations, the board said, did not rise to the level of “research misconduct.”

Dr. Gay was already under pressure for what some had said was the university’s inadequate response to the October 7 attacks on Israel.

After initially remaining silent after groups of students wrote a open letter Saying that Israel was “fully responsible” for the violence, Dr. Gay and other officials released a letter to the university community acknowledging “feelings of fear, sadness, anger and more.” After an outcry over what some considered lukewarm language, Dr. Gay issued a further comment strong statement condemning Hamas for “terrorist atrocities,” while urging people to use words that “illuminate and do not inflame.”

At the congressional hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, hurled hypothetical questions at Dr. Gay and the other college presidents.

“At Harvard,” Ms. Stefanik asked Dr. Gay, “does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s bullying and harassment rules? Yes or no?”

“It may be, depending on the context,” Dr. Gay responded.

That exchange, and a similar exchange between Stefanik and Magill, exploded on social media and angered many people with close ties to the universities.

Dr. Gay attempted to contain the fallout with an apology in an interview published in The Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper. “When words amplify anguish and pain, I don’t know how you can feel anything but regret,” he said.

A week after her testimony, the Harvard Corporation issued a unanimous statement of support, after meeting late into the night, saying it strongly supported her.

But there were signs that the controversy could have damaged Harvard’s reputation. The number of students who applied this fall under the university’s early action program, which gives them the chance to make an admissions decision in December instead of March, fell about 17 percent, the university said last month. past.

The report was contributed by Dana Goldstein, Rob Copeland, Annie Karni and Vimal Patel. Kirsten Noyes contributed to the research.