Harvard President Apologizes for Congressional Testimony on Anti-Semitism

Harvard President Claudine Gay apologized to the university community for her testimony before Congress, where she gave evasive answers to questions about whether calls for the genocide of Jews would violate campus policies.

“I’m sorry,” Dr. Gay said in an interview with the campus newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, published on Friday. “Words matter.”

“When words amplify anguish and pain, I don’t know how you can feel anything but regret,” he said.

The interview came as Dr. Gay faced a storm of repercussions, including the abrupt resignation of a rabbi from Harvard’s anti-Semitism advisory committee, the launch of a congressional investigation and even suggestions from a prominent student that she was unqualified to his position, which he assumed. in July.

Dr. Gay said in the interview that she had been “caught up” in a barrage of questions Tuesday from Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and that she “should have had the presence of mind” during the exchange to “come back 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 unanswered.”

The exchanges involving Ms. Stefanik, Dr. Gay and two other university leaders, Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania and Sally Kornbluth of MIT, have caused confusion at three of the country’s most influential universities. On Thursday, a House committee opened an investigation into “the learning environments” at the three campuses, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the three presidents should leave their positions.

When asked during Tuesday’s hearing whether urging the genocide of the Jewish people amounted to challenging Harvard’s policies against bullying and harassment, Dr. Gay responded: “It may be, depending on the context.”

Magill has received some of the harshest criticism for her testimony, with influential donors and alumni pushing for her to be expelled from Penn. A taxpayer has decided to rescind a donation valued at approximately $100 million. But the uproar surrounding Dr. Gay has also been accompanied by a debate about how universities handle issues of race.

Bill Ackman, a billionaire investor and Harvard alumnus, insisted on social media this week that Dr. Gay’s appointment was related to the university’s goals for diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Narrowing the candidate pool based on the required criteria of race, gender, and/or sexual orientation is not the right approach to identifying the best leaders for our most prestigious universities,” Ackman wrote in a post on It’s good for those who get the job of president and find themselves in a position they probably wouldn’t have gotten if it weren’t for a big thumb on the scale.”

Harvard said it had no comment on Ackman’s post. In her announcement last year of Dr. Gay’s elevation to the presidency, Penny Pritzker, who chaired the presidential search committee, said more than 600 people had been nominated to lead Harvard. When Ms. Pritzker began the search last year, saying that Harvard was looking for a person who had, among other qualities, “a commitment to accepting diversity in many dimensions as a source of strength.”

Ibram inferior blacks and women receive their positions because of identity.”

Dr. Kendi added: “These ideas appear in times of crisis: the assumption is that the problem is the black leader and the woman.” He declined to comment further.

Dr. Gay has given no public signal that she is considering resigning, and there has been no indication that she is facing a revolt as serious as Magill’s at Penn. However, the fallout from Dr. Gay’s testimony has been notable, including Rabbi David Wolpe’s resignation Thursday from the advisory committee on anti-Semitism that Harvard formed after the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.

Rabbi Wolpe said in an interview Friday that he felt uncomfortable being perceived as the “voice of the Jewish community” on the panel.

“I was left with a job that involved a lot of responsibility and no authority,” he said, noting that he felt he could still “be a force for good” by meeting with students in his capacity as a visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity. School.

In a series of posts on a committee or a single university”. “

Rabbi Wolpe added: “You’re not going to change it by hiring or firing a single person, or by publishing on . character. This is the task of educating a generation, and also of vast unlearning.”

Dr. Gay said in a statement that the rabbi had “deepened my and our community’s understanding of the unacceptable presence of anti-Semitism here at Harvard.” He added that he was “committed to ensuring that no member of our Jewish community faces this hatred in any form.”

But Rabbi Wolpe said immense damage had been done to the credibility of some universities that had been the subject of intense debate since October. Parents, he said in Friday’s interview, called and said they no longer dreamed of sending their children to schools like Harvard and Penn.

“When I was a child, something like this was unthinkable,” Rabbi Wolpe said.

Stephanie Saul contributed with reports.